Turn the other cheek (Mt 5:39-5:39)

“But I say to you!

‘Do not resist

An evildoer!

But if anyone

Strikes you

On the right cheek,

Turn the other also.’”

 

ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ ἀντιστῆναι τῷ πονηρῷ· ἀλλ’ ὅστις σε ῥαπίζει εἰς τὴν δεξιὰν σιαγόνα σου, στρέψον αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν ἄλλην·

 

Matthew is not alone in having Jesus solemnly speak (ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν) about turning the other cheek.  Luke, in chapter 6:29, around his blessings and curses, had the exact same saying, perhaps another example of the Q source.  Jesus told them not to resist the evildoer (μὴ ἀντιστῆναι τῷ πονηρῷ).  Is this evil one the devil, as implied earlier in this chapter?  Or is this just another evil person?  If they were struck on the right cheek (ἀλλ’ ὅστις σε ῥαπίζει εἰς τὴν δεξιὰν σιαγόνα σου), they should turn the other cheek (στρέψον αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν ἄλλην).  A slap on the right cheek was usually a back handed slap since most people were right handed.  Jesus himself would be struck on the cheek in the passion narrative.  They would be true followers of Jesus, if they did not resist, as in the passion story.  This is one of the strongest arguments for Christian pacifism.

The sermon on the mount (Mt 5:1-5:2)

“Jesus saw the crowds.

He went up the mountain.

After he sat down,

His disciples came to him.

He began to speak.

He taught them.”

 

δὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος· καὶ καθίσαντος αὐτοῦ προσῆλθαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ

καὶ ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς λέγων

 

This Sermon on the Mount contains the main themes of Jesus’ teaching.  There is an equivalent in Luke, chapter 6:20-26, but there is nothing like this in Mark or John.  This sermon is one of the great examples of the common Q source.  How did Luke and Matthew use this source differently?  Matthew has 8 blessings, but Luke has 4 blessings and 4 curses.  Matthew continued with his theme about large crowds.  Jesus saw that he had a large crowd (δὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους).  What exactly is a large crowd?  Jesus went up to a mountain (ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος), probably some rolling hill near Capernaum.  Matthew has another echo of Moses, as someone who escaped death as a child, left Egypt, went into the wilderness for 40 days, and now goes up the mountain.  In Luke, Jesus was on a level plain.  Right from the start, there are two different perspectives.  Jesus sat down (καὶ καθίσαντος αὐτοῦ), which was the common position of Jewish teaching rabbis.  Of course, his followers or disciples came to him (προσῆλθαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ).  Obviously, there were now more than the two sets of two brothers.  Jesus then opened his mouth (καὶ ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ) to teach them with his words (ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς λέγων).  If he was seated, in order to be heard, the crowd could not have been more than a couple of hundred people, if that, maybe even less than 100.

King Shallum (Jer 22:11-22:12)

“Thus says Yahweh

Concerning King Shallum

The son of King Josiah

Of Judah.

He succeeded his father,

King Josiah.

He went away from this place.

He shall never return here.

But in the place

Where they have carried him captive,

There he shall die.

He shall never

See this land again.”

King Shallum or King Jehoahaz (609-609 BCE) was the son of King Josiah (640-609 BCE). At the age of 23 he succeeded his father who had died in battle. As you can see, he lasted less than a year, only 3 months, before he was banished to Egypt by King Necho II of Egypt (610-595 BCE), where he died in prison. His brother King Eliakim or King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) succeeded him with the blessings of King Necho II of Egypt. Jeremiah recounts that Yahweh had him succeed his father. Then he was sent away to Egypt from which he never returned. He never saw his homeland again. There is a good deal of historical artifacts about this time, showing the problems of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians with the king of Judah in the middle.

Fear of the Lord (Sir 34:14-34:20)

“The spirit of those

Who fear the Lord

Will live.

Their hope is in him

Who saves them.

Those who fear the Lord

Will not be timid.

They will not play the coward.

He is their hope.

Happy is the soul

That fears the Lord!

To whom does he look?

Who is his support?

The eyes of the Lord

Are on those who love him.

The Lord is a mighty shield.

The Lord is a strong support.

The Lord is a shelter

From the scorching wind.

The Lord is a shade

From the noonday sun.

The Lord is a guard

Against stumbling.

The Lord is a help

Against falling.

He lifts up the soul.

He makes the eyes sparkle.

He gives health.

He gives life.

He gives blessings.”

Sirach emphasizes the importance of fearing God with its consequences. Those who fear the Lord will live. They have hope that the Lord will save them. They will not be cowards or timid. The reason for their hope is that the Lord supports them. He loves them since he is like a shield. He provides shelter for them against the hot winds and shade against the hot midday sun. The Lord keeps them from stumbling or falling. He lifts up their souls as he makes their eyes sparkle. He gives them health, life and blessings. A lot of good things happen when you fear the Lord.

Your duty to your parents (Sir 3:1-3:9)

“Listen to me!

Your father!

O children!

Act accordingly!

Thus you may be kept in safety.

The Lord honors a father above his children.

The Lord confirms a mother’s right over her children.

Whoever honors their father

Atones for sins.

Whoever respects their mother is

Like one who lays up treasure.

Whoever honors their father

Will have joy in their own children.

When one prays

They will be heard.

Whoever respects their father

Will have a long life.

Whoever honors their mother

Obeys the Lord.

They will serve their parents as masters.

Honor your father by word.

Honor your father by deed.

Thus his blessing may come upon you.

A father’s blessing

Strengthens the houses of the children.

But a mother’s curse

Uproots their foundations.”

Now Sirach asks children to listen to their fathers. If they do so, they will be safe. The Lord has placed the father in charge of the children, so the children should respect their fathers. If they do, they will atone for their sins. They should respect their mothers because she is like an important treasure. If you honor your father, you will have joy in your own children. Their prayers will be heard. They will have a long life. If you honor your mother, you obey God. You should honor your parents by word and deed as if they were your masters. This is like the divine right of parents. Blessings will come upon you to strengthen the house of your children. However, watch out for the curse of your mother, which could uproot everything.

The extermination of the first-born Egyptians (Wis 18:5-18:9)

“When they had resolved

To kill the infants of your holy ones,

One child had been abandoned.

He was rescued.

You in punishment

Took away a multitude of their children.

You destroyed them all together

By a mighty flood.

That night was made known beforehand to our ancestors.

Thus they might rejoice in sure knowledge

Of the oaths in which they trusted.

The deliverance of the righteous

Was expected by your people.

The destruction of their enemies

Was expected by your people.

By the same means

By which you punished our enemies

You called us to yourself.

You glorified us.

In secret,

The holy children of good people offered sacrifices.

With one accord,

They agreed to the divine law.

Thus the saints would share alike the same things,

Both blessings and dangers.

Already they were singing the praises of the ancestors.”

Here we have an attempt to explain the passover killing of the first born in Egypt. This story seems to imply that the Egyptians had killed Israelite children first. However, in the story in Exodus, chapters 11 and 12, there is no indication of this. This was simply the 10th plague after all the other plagues had failed to change the mind of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Apparently this is a reference to the persecution and story of the birth of Moses in Exodus, chapters 1-2, but it is unrelated to the Passover events. It is true that in this story of the Passover, the Israelites were warned ahead of time about the angel of death. Obviously, God’s righteous people were saved (λαοῦ σου σωτηρία μὲν δικαίων). The enemies were destroyed. They had a sacred meal that has become the Passover because the holy ones (τοὺς ἁγίους) were willing to follow the divine law (τῆς θειότητος νόμον). This became the central part of the Israelite religion as they shared both the blessings and dangers of being an Israelite.