“Yahweh has a day of vengeance.
He has a year of vindication
For Zion’s cause.
The streams of Edom
Shall be turned into pitch.
Her soil turned into sulfur.
Her land shall become a burning pitch.
Night and day,
It shall not be quenched.
Its smoke shall go up forever.
From generation to generation,
It shall lie waste.
No one shall pass through it forever and ever.”
Isaiah says that Yahweh will have his day of vengeance and a year of vindication for Mount Zion. The water streams of Edom will be turned into oily pitch, while the land will become like sulfur. Thus the whole land will become a burning pitch of fire and brimstone. Both day and night, forever, this fire with its smoke will not go out. For generations to come, this land will lay wasted so that no one will ever pass by there again. Its sounds like some kind of deserted smoking volcano, suffering the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis, chapter 19.
“Your silver has become dross.
Your wine is mixed with water.
Your princes are rebels.
They are the companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe.
They run after gifts.
They do not defend the orphans.
The widow’s cause does not
Come before them.”
Isaiah reminds the Israelites that their silver money in Jerusalem has become worthless scum dross. Their wine is not pure, since it is mixed with water, or watered down. The princes of Jerusalem have become rebels and companions of thieves. They love bribes and run after gifts. There is no one left to defend and help the orphans and the widows, which is so important for Israelite life.
“How the faithful city
Has become a whore!
She was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her!
But now there are murderers!”
There is no doubt that this faithful city is Jerusalem. What a shame! She has become a whore. She used to be full of justice and righteousness, but now there are murderers living there. The wonderful city of King David and King Solomon has become a whore because King Hezekiah decided to pay off the Assyrians not to invade them after the fall of Samaria, in 2 Kings, chapter 18.
Let us argue it out!
Even though your sins are
They shall be
Even though they are red
They shall become
It is difficult to tell whether this is a new Yahweh oracle of Isaiah, but it is a new theme, forgiveness. The case in favor of forgiveness must be presented, discussed, and argued out like a law case. Even though your sins were a scarlet wicked color, they could become pure white like snow. Even these crimson red sins could become like lamb’s white wool. Thus there was a path to forgiveness.
“I would rather live with a lion.
I would rather live with a dragon
Than live with an evil wife.
A wife’s wickedness
Changes her appearance.
Her wickedness darkens her face
Like that of a bear.
Her husband sits
Among the neighbors.
He cannot help sighing bitterly.
Any iniquity is small
Compared to a wife’s iniquity.
May a sinner’s lot befall her!
A sandy ascent
For the feet of the aged,
Such is a garrulous wife
To a quiet husband.”
Sirach continues his diatribe against women, particularly evil wives. He would rather live with a lion or a dragon, rather than an evil wife. In fact, he insists that her appearance changes because of her wickedness since her face will become dark like that of a bear. That would be some sight. Her poor husband will have to sit and eat with his neighbors and sigh bitterly. The worse kind of iniquity or evil is that committed by your wife. She should be reckoned as a sinner. This evil wife talks too much for her quiet husband. Thus he is like an old man trying to climb up a sandy dune. Sirach wants you to have pity for this poor husband with the evil wife, as if it never happened the other way around. Or perhaps he had some personal experience that colored his attitude.
“Good things and bad,
Life and death,
Poverty and wealth,
All come from the Lord.
The Lord’s gift remains
With the devout.
His favor brings lasting success.
One becomes rich
One becomes rich
The reward allotted to him is this.
When he says.
‘I have found rest.
Now I shall feast on my goods!’
He does not know
How long it will be
Until he leaves them to others,
Until he dies.”
Everything comes from the Lord, both good and bad, life and death, as well as poverty and wealth. The Lord graces or gifts those who are devout. The Lord’s favor brings lasting success. You can become rich through diligence and self-denial. You might even say that you want to enjoy your wealth. However, you have no idea how long you will be able to do this because death is always looming. Someone else will probably enjoy these things that you worked so hard to get.
“Do not seek from the Lord a high office!
Do not seek the seat of honor from the king!
Do not assert your righteousness before the Lord!
Do not display your wisdom before the king!
Do not seek to become a judge!
You may be unable to root out injustice.
You may be partial to the powerful.
You may mar your integrity.
Commit no offense against the public!
Do not disgrace yourself among the people!”
Sirach then gave some instructions on how to conduct yourself in public places. First, you should not seek a high office or a seat of honor from the king. Second, do not claim to be righteous before the Lord. Third, do not display your wisdom before the king. Fourth, you should not seek to become a judge because you may not be able to get rid of evil injustice. You might be partial to the powerful people and mar your own integrity. Finally, do not commit any offense against the people so that you do not end up in disgrace.
“To guarantee loans for a stranger brings trouble.
But there is safety in refusing to loan money.
A gracious woman gets honor.
But she who hates virtue is covered with shame.
The timid become destitute.
But the aggressive gain riches.
Those who are kind
But the cruel do themselves harm.
The wicked earn no real gain.
But those who sow righteousness
Get a true reward.
Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live.
But whoever pursues evil will die.”
There was no safely in guaranteeing loans for strangers. A gracious woman has great honor, while those without virtue are covered in shame. The timid will become destitute, while the aggressive will get rich. The kind people take care of themselves, while the cruel people harm themselves. The wicked never earn any real gain in life. However, those who sow in righteousness will get a true reward. Those who are steadfast in righteousness will live, while the pursuers of evil will die. Money has to be used correctly.
“Whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse.
Whoever rebukes the wicked gets hurt.
A scoffer who is rebuked,
Will only hate you.
The wise man,
Will love you.
Give instruction to the wise.
They will become wiser still.
Teach the righteous,
They will gain in learning.
The fear of Yahweh
Is the beginning of wisdom.
The knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Your days will be multiplied.
Years will be added to your life.
If you are wise,
You are wise for yourself.
If you scoff,
You alone will bear it.”
If you mock or deride people as scoffers, there is no sense in rebuking you. You will only get hurt and abused because you are as if rebuking a wicked person. They will hate you. On the other hand, if you give instruction to the wise ones, they will become wiser still. If you teach the righteous, they will gain in learning. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Yahweh. The knowledge of the Holy One leads to insight. Wisdom will multiple your days and years. If you are wise, it will go well with you. If you are a scoffer or cynic, you will bear the whole burden alone.