Why things happen (Am 3:3-3:5)

“Do two people walk together,

Unless they have made

An appointment?

Does a lion roar

In the forest,

When it has no prey?

Does a young lion cry out

From its den,

If it has taken nothing?

Does a bird fall

Into a snare

On the earth,

When there is no trap

For it?

Does a snare spring up

From the ground,

When it has taken nothing?”

Amos asked a series of questions. Certain things happen because it is the normal thing for them to do. People who walk together have usually set up a time to do so. A lion roars in the forest when it has taken some prey. A young lion in a den has found something when it cries out. A bird does not fall into a snare if there was no trap set up. A snare does not spring up without being set. Thus, there is a natural reaction that takes place in all these cases.

Be careful with strangers (Sir 11:29-11:34)

“Do not invite everyone

Into your home.

Many are the tricks

Of the crafty.

Like a decoy partridge

In a cage,

So is the mind

Of the proud.

Like spies

They observe your weakness.

They lie in wait.

They turn good into evil.

To worthy actions,

They attach blame.

From a spark of fire,

Many coals are kindled.

A sinner lies in wait

To shed blood.

Beware of scoundrels!

They devise evil.

They may ruin

Your reputation forever.

If you receive strangers

Into your home,

They will stir up trouble

For you.

They will make you

A stranger

To your own family.”

Sirach warns that you should be suspicious and careful about whom you let into your home. Some people are tricky and crafty. These proud spies are like a partridge bird in a cage observing everything, especially your weaknesses. Even back then they had spying devices. They will turn good into evil. They will blame you for the good things that you have done. They are like a spark that starts a roaring fire. These sinners want to hurt you. These evil doers are trying to ruin your reputation. If you let strangers into your house, they will stir up trouble. In the end, you will be like a stranger in your own family. Beware of stranger danger!

The traceless end of the unjust (Wis 5:9-5:13)

“All those things have vanished

Like a shadow.

They have vanished

Like a rumor that passes by.

They are

Like a ship that sails through the billowy water.

When it has passed

No trace can be found.

There is no track of its keel in the waves.

When a bird flies through the air,

No evidence of its passage is found.

The light air,

Lashed by the beat of its pinions,

Pierced by the force of its rushing flight,

Is traversed

By the movement of its wings.

Afterward no sign of its coming is found there.

When an arrow is shot at a target,

The air,

Thus divided,

Comes together at once.

Thus no one knows its pathway.

So we also,

As soon as we were born,

Ceased to be.

We had no sign of virtue to show.

But we were consumed in our wickedness.”

The ungodly and unjust have disappeared like a shadow. Here now, but gone when the sun stops shining. They are like a rumor that vanishes almost instantaneously. They are like a ship going in the sea. Once it is gone, there is no way to trace its path. The same is true on the bird in the air. Once gone, you are never sure of its precise path. The same goes for an arrow shot in the air. No one can tell its path. However, today we do have technology that can trace ships, birds, and arrows. So what? These unjust ones declared that they ceased to exist the day they were born, because they had no virtue. Thus they were consumed with wickedness.

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.

Good friends (Prov 27:8-27:10)

“Like a bird that strays from its nest,

Is one who strays from home.

Perfume makes the heart glad.

Incense makes the heart glad.

But the soul is torn by trouble.

Do not forsake your friend!

Do not forsake the friend of your parents!

Do not go to the house of your kindred

In the day of your calamity.

Better is a neighbor who is nearby

Than kindred who are far away.”

Good friends are important. You should not stray from home just as a bird does not leave its nest. Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but trouble tears apart the soul. Do not give up on your friends or the friends of your parents. If something goes wrong, do not go to your far away family relatives but to your nearby friends and neighbors.

Yahweh helped us escape (Ps 124:6-124:7)

“Blessed be Yahweh!

He has not given us

As prey to their teeth!

We have escaped

As a bird

From the snare of the fowlers.

The snare is broken.

We have escaped!”

Yahweh should be blessed because he has not given them over to the teeth of their enemies as prey. They had escaped like a bird from a snare trap. The snare trap was broken so that they were able to escape.

The exit from the ark (Gen 8:15-8:22)

“Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’  So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.  And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.”

This is the so-called re-creation or second creation, since the humans had been too sinful during the first creation.  Things were going to start again with Noah and his three sons and all the living things on the ark. Then God said to Noah, take your family and leave the ark and take all the animals with you and let everyone be fruitful and multiple.  This they did, as they seem to be in Armenia when this happens.

“Then Noah built an altar to Yahweh, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  And when Yahweh smelled the pleasing odor, Yahweh said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of mankind, for the inclination or imagination of human heart is evil from youth.  Nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.   As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Now Noah built an altar, the first instance on an altar, and it is from the sacerdotal source and not in a holy place.  Then Noah made a holocaust burnt offering of every clean animal and bird, which would have been a lot of animals and birds.  However, the burnt offering is from the Mosaic code and not from this pre-Abraham time frame, although sacrifices were common in the ancient times. When Yahweh smelled the pleasant odor, he said that we would never again curse the ground and all the earthly creatures because of humans, who are naturally evil.  So poetically, the earth shall always have ‘seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.’