The Moses speech (Bar 2:29-2:31)

“‘If you will not obey

My voice,

This very great multitude

Will surely turn

Into a small number

Among the nations,

Where I will scatter them.

I know that they will not

Obey me.

They are a stiff-necked people.

But in the land of their exile

They will come to themselves.

They will know

That I am

The Lord their God.

I will give them

A heart

That obeys.

I will give them

Ears that hear.’”

This is reminiscent of the end of chapter 28 in Deuteronomy. There was no explicit mention of an exile in that chapter. However in chapter 30, there was a call to return from the scattered countries. The Israelites were to obey the voice of Yahweh. Otherwise this great multitude would become a small number of people among many nations, since they were going to be scattered. Moses and Yahweh knew that the Israelites would not obey the Mosaic Law because they were a stiff-necked people. However, they would discover themselves in the land of their exile. This happens a lot. When separated from their basic culture, people tend to re-discover all the great things of their original culture that they had overlooked. The Israelites would come to realize that Yahweh was their true God. Thus Yahweh would give them an obeying heart and hearing ears so that they would be more attentive to him.

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Pride (Prov 16:18-16:21)

“Pride goes before destruction.

A haughty spirit happens before a fall.

It is better to be of a lowly spirit

Among the poor

Than to divide the spoil

With the proud.

Those who are attentive to a matter will prosper.

Happy are those who trust in Yahweh.

The wise of heart are called perceptive.

Pleasant speech increases persuasiveness.”

Being proud was not a good idea since it led to destruction. A haughty or proud spirit usually came before someone stumbled or fell. It is much better to be a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide up the spoils of victory with the proud people. If you are attentive to small matters you will prosper. If you trust in Yahweh, you will be happy. The wise ones are called perceptive. Pleasant speech will make it easier to be persuasive.

Keep on the straight and narrow (Prov 4:20-4:27)

“My child!

Be attentive to my words!

Incline your ear to my sayings.

Do not let them escape from your sight.

Keep them within your heart!

They are life to those who find them.

They are healing to all their flesh.

Keep your heart with all vigilance!

The springs of life flow from your heart.

Put away from you crooked speech!

Put devious talk far from you!

Let your eyes look directly forward.

Your gaze should be straight before you.

Keep straight the path of your feet!

Then all your ways will be sure.

Do not swerve to the right or to the left!

Turn your foot away from evil!”

The parental fatherly advice concludes this chapter. They are to keep on the straight and narrow path. Once again, he asks his children to be attentive and listen to his words. They are not to let his words escape, but rather keep them in their hearts. If they do that, then they will have life and healing. The heart is where all life comes from, so that your heart had to be vigilant. They were not to have crooked or devious speech. Their eyes should always be looking forward with a gaze straight ahead. They had to keep their feet on the straight path, never swerving to the right or the left. They were, of course, to stay away from evil.

Parental wisdom teaching (Prov 4:1-4:9)

“Children!

Listen to a father’s instruction!

Be attentive!

Thus you may gain insight into truth.

I give you good precepts.

Do not forsake my teaching.

When I was a son with my father,

I was tender.

I was my mother’s favorite.

He taught me.

He said to me.

‘Let your heart hold fast my words.

Keep my commandments.

Thus you will live.

Get wisdom!

Get insight!

Do not forget!

Do not turn away from the words of my mouth!

Do not forsake her!

She will keep you.

Love her!

Thus she will guard you.

The beginning of wisdom is this.

Get wisdom!

Whatever else you get,

Get insight!

Prize her highly!

Thus she will exalt you.

She will honor you

If you embrace her.

She will place on your head

A fair garland.

She will bestow on you

A beautiful crown.’”

Once again, we have paternal instruction. This father wanted his children to be attentive so that they could gain some insight. He wanted them not to forget his good teaching, since he was only doing what his father had done to him. He had been the favorite of his mother. He believed that he should follow his father’s words and commands. If they did the same, they would have a good life. In a tautology, he said that the beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom. Wow! They were to get wisdom and insight, first and foremost. They were not to forsake lady wisdom. If they kept her, she would keep them. If they loved wisdom, she would protect them. If they prized her, she would exalt them. If they embraced her, she would honor them. Thus they would have a wonderful Roman garland and a beautiful crown.

Parental advice (Prov 2:1-2:9)

“My child!

If you accept my words,

If you treasure my commandments within you,

You will make your ear attentive to wisdom.

You will incline your heart to understanding.

If you indeed cry out for insight,

If you raise your voice for understanding,

If you seek it like silver,

If you search for it as for hidden treasures,

Then you will understand the fear of Yahweh.

You will find the knowledge of God.

Yahweh gives wisdom.

From his mouth comes knowledge.

From his mouth comes understanding.

He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.

He is a shield to those who walk blamelessly.

He guards the paths of justice.

He preserves the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand righteousness.

You will understand justice.

You will understand equity.

You will understand every good path.”

This chapter of Proverbs is a poem and lecture at the same time. If you search for wisdom, it will come. This is a father telling his children how to live their lives. This section used the structure of the “if” phrases. If they accept his words and treasure his commandments, then they will be attentive to wisdom and understanding. If they cry out for insight and understanding, like they were seeking money or a hidden treasure, then they will understand the fear of Yahweh. The knowledge of God brings wisdom because God gives knowledge. wisdom, and understanding. He shields those who walk blamelessly. He guards the paths of justice. He preserves the faithful ones. With wisdom, you will be able to understand righteousness, justice, equity, and every good path. First, fear God, then everything else will fall into place.

From the depths (Ps 130:1-130:2)

A song of ascent

“Out of the depths,

I cry to you!

Yahweh!

Yahweh!

Hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

To the voice of my supplications!”

Psalm 130 is another in this series of pilgrimage songs or psalms on the ascent to Jerusalem. However, this is more a penitential psalm that cries from the depths of despair. This psalmist cried out to Yahweh. He wanted Yahweh to listen. He wanted Yahweh to have his ears attentive to his prayers of supplication.

The gathering with Ezra (Neh 8:1-8:3)

“All the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the Law of Moses which Yahweh had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women, and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand it. The ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.”

All of a sudden, out of nowhere Ezra himself shows up to read the Law of Moses. Ezra had not come with the original settlers. He came to Jerusalem about 70 years later, a few years before Nehemiah. The first person narrative of Nehemiah seems to end. This also assumes that the Water Gate is complete or that there is some kind of gate where people can meet. Perhaps this was after the rebuilding of the wall and the gates. This was on the southeast side of Jerusalem. At this assembly were both men and women, as well as those who could understand, which may refer to children who could reason. Ezra faced the square and read from early morning to midday. Everyone was attentive to the Law of Moses. We are not sure what part of the Pentateuch he read, probably not Genesis or Exodus. More than likely it was Deuteronomy that seems to be their favorite book. This was the 1st day of the 7th month or the New Year gathering time. This author noted that they were all attentive.