Israel brought it on themselves (Jer 2:17-2:19)

“Have you not brought this upon yourself?

You have forsaken Yahweh your God.

He tried to lead you in the way.

What did you gain by going to Egypt?

Why did you try to drink

The waters of the Nile?

What did you gain by going to Assyria?

Why did you try to drink

The waters of the Euphrates?

Your wickedness will punish you.

Your apostates will convict you.

Know!

See!

It is evil!

It is bitter for you

To forsake Yahweh

Your God.

The fear of me is not in you.’

Says Yahweh

God of hosts.”

Jeremiah reminds Israel that they brought all this destruction on themselves by giving up on Yahweh and going their own way. They gained nothing by going to Egypt to drink from the Nile River or from Assyria to drink from the Euphrates River. They will be punished for their wickedness by their own people. They will know and see that it is evil and bitter to forsake Yahweh.  They did not fear Yahweh, the God of hosts.

Prayer of thanksgiving (Isa 38:16-38:20)

“O Lord!

By these things

People live.

In all these is

The life of my spirit.

Restore me to health!

Make me live!

Surely it was for my welfare

That I had great bitterness.

But you held back my life

From the pit of destruction.

You have cast all my sins

Behind your back.

Sheol cannot thank you.

Death cannot praise you.

Those who go down to the pit

Cannot hope for your faithfulness.

The living,

The living,

They thank you,

As I do this day.

The father makes known to the children

Your faithfulness.

Yahweh will save me.

We will sing to stringed instruments

All the days of our lives,

At the house of Yahweh.”

Second Isaiah has King Hezekiah happy that his ordeal is over. However, he recognized that these difficulties are part of life. Once restored to health and life, he realizes that these things happened for his own good, even if he was a little bitter. Yahweh had his back, so that he never met the pit of destruction. All his sins were forgotten. Sheol and death were not able to grab him because there he would not have been able to praise or give thanks to Yahweh. There they lose all hope and faithfulness. However, it is the living ones who give praise and thanksgiving to Yahweh, as he did this day. Children learn from their fathers about faithfulness, so too Yahweh has saved him. Thus he and his friends will sing with stringed instruments at the house of Yahweh all the days of their lives.

The city in chaos (Isa 24:7-24:13)

“The wine dries up.

The vine languishes.

All the merry hearted sigh.

The mirth of the timbrels is stilled.

The noise of the jubilant has ceased.

The mirth of the lyre is stilled.

No longer do they drink wine

With singing.

Strong drink is bitter

To those who drink it.

The city of chaos is broken down.

Every house is shut up

So that none can enter.

There is an outcry in the streets

For lack of wine.

All joy has reached its eventide.

The gladness of the earth is banished.

Desolation is left in the city.

The gates are battered into ruins.

Thus it shall be on the earth.

Thus it shall be among the nations.

It will be

Like a beaten olive tree,

Like the gleaning

When the grape harvest is ended.”

Isaiah points out that without wine, there is no joy, just sighing. The vines and the wine have languished and dried up. The sound of the jubilant musical instruments of the timbrels and lyre was no more. There were no more drinking and singing. Strong drink had become bitter, like raw alcohol. The city of chaos broke down. It is difficult to figure out whether this was a specific city or the symbolic end of the world chaos. All the houses were closed, so that no one could come in or go out. People complained about the lack of wine with no joy in this city, since gladness had been banished. It was now a desolate chaotic city with broken down gates. This felt like the time after the olive trees and vines had been harvested with nothing left to do, even though there was no harvest. The vines and trees were empty and barren.

A reproach against immorality (Isa 5:20-5:20)

“Woe to you

Who call evil good!

Woe to you

Who call good evil!

Woe to you

Who put darkness for light!

Woe to you

Who put light for darkness!

Woe to you

Who put bitter for sweet!

Woe to you

Who put sweet for bitter!”

Now Isaiah takes on the immoral people who call evil good and the reverse, good evil. They put darkness on light and light on darkness. They say something is bitter when it is sweet, and vice versa. They live in an immoral upside down world.

Death (Sir 41:1-41:4)

“O death!

How bitter is the thought of you!

Death is bitter to those

Who live at peace

Among their possessions!

Death is bitter to those

Who have nothing to worry about!

Death is bitter to those

Who are prosperous in everything!

Death is bitter to those

Who still are vigorous enough

To enjoy food!

O death!

How welcome is your sentence?

Death is welcome to those

Who are failing in strength!

Death is welcome to those

Who are worn down by age!

Death is welcome to those

Who are anxious about everything!

Death is welcome to those

Who are contrary!

Death is welcome to those

Who have lost all patience!

Do not fear death’s decree for you!

Remember those who went before you!

Remember those who will come after you!

This is the Lord’s decree for all flesh.

Why then should you reject

The will of the Most High?

Whether life lasts

For ten years,

Or a hundred years,

Or a thousand years,

There are no questions asked

In Hades.”

Sirach has a poem about death. The thought of death is bitter to those who are doing well with a lot of possessions. They are prosperous, without worry, and vigorous enough to enjoy foods. On the other hand, the thought of death is welcomed by those who are not doing as well, the needy, the old, the contrary, those with failing strength, those anxious about everything, and those who have lost all patience. Remember that everybody before you and after you will die also. It does not matter how long your life is, in Hades they do not care if you lived 10 years, or a 100 years or a 1,000 years. It is death, plain and simple.

Be kind to all (Sir 4:6-4:10)

If in bitterness of soul,

Some should curse you,

Their Creator will hear their prayer.

Endear yourself to the congregation.

Bow your head low to the great.

Give a hearing to the poor.

Return their greeting politely.

Rescue the oppressed from the oppressor.

Do not be hesitant in giving a verdict.

Be like a father to orphans.

Be like a husband to their mother.

You will then be like a son of the Most High.

He will love you more than does your mother.”

Now it may happen, that someone who is bitter might curse you. Let the Creator God judge you. Fit into your community. Bow your head to the people in charge. Listen to the poor. Greet them politely. Rescue those who are being abused. Do not be afraid to make a judgment. Be like a father to orphans and a husband to widows. If you do these things, you will be like a son of the Most High God. God, the Creator, will love you more than your mother does. This is a strong demand for a civil society.

Watch out for women (Eccl 7:26-7:29)

“I found that the woman,

Who is a trap,

Is more bitter than death.

Her heart is snares.

Her hear is nets.

Her hands are fetters.

‘One who pleases God escapes her.

But the sinner is taken by her.’

See!

This is what I found,

Says Qoheleth,

Adding one thing to another

To find the sum.

My mind has sought this repeatedly,

But I have not found it.

‘One man among a thousand

I found.

But a woman among all these

I have not found.’

See!

This alone I found.

God made human beings straightforward.

However they have devised many schemes.”

In this anti-feminine diatribe, Qoheleth believed that women were a trap, more bitter than death. Female hearts were like a snare and a net, while their hands were like chains. If you were pleasing to God, you escaped from this woman. However, the sinner could be taken by her. Qoheleth could find only one good man among 1,000, but he could not find even one good person among the women. He had found out that God made humans straight forward, but humans just devised many schemes.