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.

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!

Vows (Eccl 5:4-5:6)

“When you make a vow to God,

Do not delay fulfilling it.

God has no pleasure in fools.

Fulfill what you vow!

It is better that you should not vow

Than that you should vow

Yet not fulfill it.

‘Do not let your mouth

Lead you into sin!

Do not say before the messenger

That it was a mistake!

Why should God be angry

At your words?

Why should he destroy

The work of your hands?’”

If you make a vow, fulfill it! Quite often, these vows were Temple payments. God does not take pleasure in fools. It is better not to make a vow that you were not able to fulfill. Don’t let your mouth lead you into sin! Don’t blame the messenger! God can be angry at your words. He could destroy your work.

The plight of David (Ps 69:6-69:8)

“Do not let those who hope in you

Be put to shame

Because of me!

Yahweh!

God of hosts!

Do not let those who seek you

Be dishonored

Because of me!

O God of Israel!

It is for your sake

That I have borne reproach!

It is for your sake

That shame has covered my face.

I have become

A stranger to my kindred.

I have become

An alien to my mother’s sons.”

David has brought shame to those who believed in Yahweh. They were being dishonored because of what David had done. He maintains that he did whatever he did for the sake of God. He was personally willing to bare this blame and shame. He had become a stranger to his relatives and an alien to his brothers because of this incident.

Job wants them to explain themselves (Job 6:24-6:27)

“Teach me!

I will be silent.

Make me understand how I have gone wrong.

How forceful are honest words!

But you criticize.

What does it do to blame?

Do you think that you can use accusing words?

Is the speech of the desperate like a wind?

You would even cast lots over the orphan.

You would even bargain over your friend.”

Job dared them to tell him where he made a mistake. Where had he gone wrong? He was being criticized and reprimanded without anything specific. Where they critical of his words? Did they blame him? Their speech was like the wind, as it easily moved on. They were the kind of people who would gamble over orphans and bargain over friends. Who needs friends like this?

The death of the high priest Menelaus (2 Macc 13:3-13:8)

“Menelaus also joined King Antiochus and Lysias. With utter hypocrisy he urged King Antiochus on, not for the sake of his country’s welfare, but because he thought that he would be established in office. But the king of kings aroused the anger of King Antiochus against the scoundrel. When Lysias informed him that this man was to blame for all the trouble, he ordered them to take him to Beroea. He was to be put to death by the method which is customary in that place. There is a tower there, fifty cubits high, full of ashes. It has a rim running around it on all sides that inclines precipitously into the ashes. There they all push to destruction anyone guilty of sacrilege or notorious for other crimes. By such a fate it came about that Menelaus the lawbreaker died, without even burial in the earth. This was eminently just. He had committed many sins against the altar whose fire and ashes were holy. Thus he met his death in ashes.”

Menelaus was not mentioned in 1 Maccabees, but was the high priest in Jerusalem here during the time of Judas Maccabeus from 171-161 BCE. He had purchased the high priest by outbidding Jason under King Antiochus IV. Now, he was urging on King Antiochus V, his son, to make sure he stayed in office. Somehow, the king of kings, a reference to God, aroused the anger of the young King Antiochus V, after Lysias, his guardian, informed the king that Menelaus was the cause of all the problems in Jerusalem. They sent him to Beroea, which was in northern Syria. There they had a Persian execution plan with a tower about 75 foot high filled with ashes that had a rim around the top of it that leaned into the ashes. They would push people into the ashes, like a farm silo that would suffocate them to death. Thus Menelaus, the lawbreaker, justly died in ashes without a burial because he had committed many sins against the holy altar.

King Ptolemy VI sees the destruction at Azotus (1 Macc 11:4-11:7)

“When King Ptolemy approached Azotus, they showed him the burnt out temple of Dagon, Azotus, and its suburbs destroyed. The corpses were lying about. The charred bodies of those whom Jonathan had burned in the war had been piled in heaps along his route. They also told the king what Jonathan had done, to throw blame on him. However, the king kept silent. Jonathan met the king at Joppa with pomp. They greeted one another and spent the night there. Jonathan went with the king as far as the river called Eleutherus. Then he returned to Jerusalem.”

It was hard to tell what King Ptolemy of Egypt thought about the destruction at Azotus. There were dead bodies piled up all over the place. The temple of Dagon had been destroyed. They told the king that Jonathan had done all this. Jonathan then met the king at Joppa. They greeted each other and stayed 1 night together. The next day, Jonathan left the king at the River Eleutherus, which is north of Tripolis, to return to Jerusalem.

The response of the king (Esth 8:7-8:8)

“Then King Artaxerxes said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew.

‘See!

I have given Esther the house of Haman.

They have hanged him on the gallows.

Because he plotted to lay hands on the Jews.

You may write as you please with regard to the Jews,

In the name of the king,.

Seal it with the king’s ring.

An edict written in the name of the king

And sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.’”

The king said that he given the house of Haman to Queen Esther. In fact, they had hanged him on his own gallows. She and Mordecai could write what they wanted about the Jews. He was going to give them his signet ring. However, he said that anything that he has written could not be revoked. Therefore, he stood by his original decree that Haman wrote. However, he would stand by anything that they would write also. There could be not revocations. It is interesting to note he took no blame. He seems to say, “Whatever” to every question that comes up.