The need for courage (Bar 4:27-4:29)

“Take courage!

My children!

Cry to God!

You will be remembered

By the one

Who brought this

Upon you.     

Just as you purposed

To go astray

From God,

Return

With tenfold zeal

To seek him!

The one who brought

These calamities

Upon you

Will bring you

Everlasting joy

With your salvation.”

This is almost a repeat of what was said earlier in this chapter about courage. These exiled children of Jerusalem should have courage. They should cry to God. Then God would remember them, since he brought these calamites on them because they went astray from him. Thus they should return to God with a tenfold zeal, so that he would bring them everlasting joy and salvation.

The devoured lost sheep (Jer 50:6-50:7)

“My people

Have been

Like lost sheep.

Their shepherds

Have led them astray.

They turned them away

On the mountains.

From mountain

To hill,

They have gone.

They have forgotten

Their fold.

All who found them

Have devoured them.

Their enemies have said.

‘We are not guilty!

Because they have sinned

Against Yahweh,

Their true pastor,

Their lord,

The hope of their ancestors.’”

The people of Israel and Judah were like lost sheep. Their shepherds or leaders had led them astray. They let these sheep loose in the mountains where they wandered around from hill to mountain, forgetting about the rest of the flock. Anyone who found them killed them and ate them. The response of these enemy snatchers was that they were not guilty, because these sheep and their shepherds had sinned against Yahweh, the true pastor and hope of their ancestors. Thus they justified their actions against them.

Against the false prophets (Jer 23:30-23:32)

“‘See!

Therefore,

I am against the prophets.’

Says Yahweh.

‘They steal my words

From one another.

See!

I am against the prophets.’

Says Yahweh.

They use their own tongues

To say.

‘Says Yahweh!’

See!

I am against those who prophesy

Lying dreams.’

Says Yahweh.

‘They tell them.

They lead my people astray

By their lies,

By their recklessness.

I did not send them.

I did not appoint them.

They do not profit

This people at all.’

Says Yahweh.”

Jeremiah has 3 more oracles of Yahweh against the false prophets. They have been stealing Yahweh’s words from one another. They use their tongues to pretend that their words are from Yahweh. They prophesize lying dreams. They have led his people astray with their lies and their recklessness. Yahweh never sent them or appointed them as prophets. They have not helped the people at all. Instead, they have been a detriment to the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

Comparisons to other evil people (Jer 23:13-23:14)

“In the prophets of Samaria,

I saw a disgusting thing.

They prophesied by Baal.

They led my people Israel astray.

But in the prophets of Jerusalem,

I have seen a more shocking thing.

They commit adultery.

They walk in lies.

They strengthen

The hands of evildoers.

Thus no one turns from wickedness.

All of them have become

Like Sodom to me.

Its inhabitants are

Like Gomorrah.”

Yahweh makes a comparison between the evil prophets of Jerusalem with the false prophets of Samaria as well as the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no doubt that the false prophets of Samaria worshipped and prophesized by Baal. Thus they led the Israelites astray by these disgusting practices. However, the prophets of Jerusalem have done a more shocking thing. They committed adultery and walked in lies. Thus they strengthened the hands of the evil doers. Thus, no one turned away from wickedness. They became like the famous sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in Genesis, chapter 19.

The devastation of northern Israel (Isa 9:13-9:17)

“The people did not turn to him

Who had struck them.

They did not seek Yahweh of hosts.

Thus Yahweh cut off from Israel

Head and tail.

In one day,

He cut off the palm branch.

He cut off the reed.

The elders and dignitaries are the head.

The prophets who teach lies are the tail.

Those who lead this people

Led them astray.

Those who were led by them

Were left in confusion.

Therefore Yahweh did not have pity

On their young people.

He did not have compassion

On their orphans and widows.

Everyone was godless.

Everyone was an evildoer.

Every mouth spoke folly.

Thus his anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

Isaiah puts part of the blame for the destruction of northern Israel on their leaders. However, he starts and finishes with the guilt of all the people, because they did not turn to the Lord, Yahweh. Both the head and the tail of northern Israel were to blame. Thus Yahweh cut off the tall palm trees and the short reeds in one day. The heads of northern Israel were the elders and the dignitaries who failed to do anything. The tails were the lying northern prophets since there were both good and bad prophets. These leaders led their people astray. They left the people confused. Thus Yahweh, the Lord, did not take pity on their young, their orphans, or their widows, as he had done elsewhere. After all, everyone was involved in foolish godless evildoing. Once again, we have the refrain that Yahweh’s anger was continuing, as he still stretched out his hand against these northern Israelites.

The negative power of gold (Sir 31:5-31:7)

“Whoever loves gold

Will not be justified.

Whoever pursues money

Will be led astray by it.

Many have come to ruin

Because of gold.

Their destruction has met them

Face to face.

It is a stumbling block

To those who are avid for it.

Every fool

Will be taken captive by it.”

Sirach warns that those who love gold will not be justified. Pursuing money will simply lead you astray. A lot of lives have been ruined over gold. Destruction has come to many, since gold is a stumbling block for those who seek it. Every fool seems to be captivated by a gold rush or the search for gold. Don’t fall in love with gold since it will take hold of you.

Reckless drunkards (Sir 19:1-19:3)

“A worker who is a drunkard

Will not become rich.

One who despises small things

Will fail little by little.

Wine leads intelligent men astray.

Women lead intelligent men astray.

The man who consorts

With prostitutes is reckless.

Decay will take possession of him

Worms will inherit him.

The reckless person

Will be snatched away.”

Sirach warns us that a drunkard will not become rich. If you despise small things, you will fail little by little. Both wine and women have led intelligent men astray. You are reckless, if you hang around with prostitutes. Always blame your downfall on someone or something other than yourself. Your body will decay and worms will take over. The reckless person will have his life snatched away.

Wisdom is demanding (Sir 4:17-4:19)

“At first,

She will walk with them on tortuous paths.

She will bring fear upon them.

She will bring dread upon them.

She will torment them by her discipline,

Until she trusts them.

She will test them with her ordinances.

She will come straight back to them again.

She will gladden them.

She will reveal her secrets to them.

If they go astray,

She will forsake them.

She will hand them over to their ruin.”

Wisdom does not come easy. There are problems and demands. She will walk with them on dangerous paths as they will be filled with fear and dread. Her discipline will torment them until she finally trusts them. She will test them with various rules. In the end, she will return to them and gladden them, as she reveals her secrets to them. On the other hand, if they go astray and give up on her, she will bring ruin to them.

Humility (Sir 3:17-3:25)

“My child!

Perform your tasks with humility!

Then you will be loved

By those whom God accepts.

The greater you are,

The more you must humble yourself.

Thus you will find favor

In the sight of the Lord.

Great is the might of the Lord.

However he is glorified

By the humble.

Seek not what is too difficult for you.

Do not investigate what is beyond your power.

Reflect upon what has been commanded.

What is hidden is not your concern.

Do not meddle in matters that are beyond you.

More than you can understand has been shown you.

Their concern has led many astray.

Wrong opinion has impaired their judgment.

Without eyes,

There is no light.

Without knowledge,

There is no wisdom.”

Once again, assuming the role of the parent, Sirach teaches the importance of humility. Be humble in whatever you do. The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself in order to find favor with the Lord. The Lord is glorified by the humble. Do not seek what is too difficult for you. Do not investigate things beyond your power. Reflect on what you have been asked to do. Do not worry about hidden things. Do not meddle in things that are beyond you. You already have many more things in your life that you cannot understand. Worrying about these things has led many astray. A wrong opinion has led many to make wrong judgments. Be content with your lot in life. Do what you are told to do. Perhaps this is an attempt to warn against the Hellenization of Judaism. We have the final admonition, that there is no sight without eyes, while there is no knowledge without wisdom.

Darkness (Wis 17:1-17:6)

“Great are your judgments.

They are hard to describe.

Therefore uninstructed souls have gone astray.

When lawless people supposed

That they held the holy nation in their power,

They themselves lay as captives of darkness.

They were prisoners of a long night.

They were shut in under their roofs.

They were exiles from eternal providence.

Thinking that in their secret sins

They were unobserved

Behind a dark curtain of forgetfulness,

They were scattered.

They were terribly alarmed.

They were appalled by specters.

Not even the inner chamber

That held them

Protected them from fear.

But terrifying sounds rang out around them.

Dismal phantoms with gloomy faces appeared.

No power of fire was able to give light.

Nor did the brilliant flames of the stars avail

To illumine that hateful night.

Nothing was shining through to them,

Except a dreadful,

Self-kindled fire.

In terror

They deemed the things which

That they saw

To be worse

Than that unseen appearance.”

This is an ode to God’s power, whose great judgment is hard to describe. The uninstructed have gone astray. The lawless (ἄνομοι) refers to Egypt, while the holy nation (ἔθνος ἅγιον) is Israel. These uninstructed lawless ones (Egypt) thought that they had the holy nation in their power. However, they were the captives of darkness. They were prisoners of the long night as they were under their own roof. They were exiles from divine providence. They thought that their secret sins would be forgotten. However, they were scattered, alarmed, and appalled. They were full of fear (ἀφόβως) in this darkness. They heard terrifying sounds and saw visions (φάσματα) of gloomy ghost faces. No fire was able to break this darkness. Nothing was shining on them except their own fear. They actually thought that things were worse than what they appeared to be.