Everyone is evil (Mic 7:3-7:4)

“Their hands are skilled

To do evil.

The official

Asks for a bribe.

The judge

Asks for a bribe.

The powerful

Dictate

What they desire.

Thus,

They pervert justice.

The best of them is

Like a brier.

The most upright

Of them is

Like a thorn hedge.

The day of their sentinels,

Of their punishment,

Has come.

Now their confusion

Is at hand.”

Micah thought that everyone was evil.  The officialsand judges did things only if they got bribes.  The powerful people did whatever they wanted to do, since they all perverted justice.  The best and most upright of them were like a briar patch or a thorn hedge.  The day of punishment was announced.  Thus, they were in a state of confusion.

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Bad behavior (Am 5:10-5:13)

“They hate him

Who reproves

At the gate.

They abhor him

Who speaks the truth.

Therefore,

You trample

On the poor.

You take from them,

Levies of grain.

You have built houses

Of hewn stone.

But you shall not live

In them.

You have planted

Pleasant vineyards.

But you shall not drink

Their wine.

I know how many are

Your transgressions.

I know how great are

Your sins.

You afflict the righteous.

You take a bribe.

You turn aside

The needy

At the gate.

Therefore,

The prudent will keep silent

In such a time.

It is an evil time.”

Next, Amos listed all the bad behavior that the northern Israelites were involved with. They did not like any reprimanding at the city judgment gate. They did not like anyone who told the truth. They trampled the poor people, as they took away their grain. They had built beautiful stone houses, but they were not going to live in them. They had planted wonderful vineyards, but they would not drink the wine from them. Amos and Yahweh knew all about their various transgressions and how great their sins were. They took bribes, mistreated the righteous, and turned away the needy at the gate. The prudent people kept silent during this evil time.

The wicked uncleanness in Jerusalem (Ezek 22:10-22:12)

“In you,

They uncover

Their fathers’ nakedness.

In you,

They violate women

In their menstrual period.

One commits abomination

With his neighbor’s wife.

Another lewdly defiles

His daughter-in-law.

Another in you,

Defiles his sister,

His father’s daughter.

In you,

They take bribes

To shed blood.

You take both

Advance interest

With accrued increase.

You make gain

Of your neighbors

By extortion.

You have forgotten me.’

Says Yahweh God.”

There was a lot of violence and lewd brutal sexual behavior in Jerusalem. They uncovered their fathers’ nakedness. They violated women in their menstrual period. They performed some sort of abomination with their neighbor’s wife. They defiled their daughters-in-law. They even defiled their sisters, the daughter’s of their father. Besides all this lewd behavior, they took bribes to kill other people. They also took both advance and accrued interest. They exploited their neighbors with extortion. Perhaps, most grievous of all was that they had forgotten Yahweh, their God.

Worthless money (Isa 1:22-1:23)

“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.

The dichotomies of life

“A good name is better

Than precious ointment.

The day of death is better

Than the day of birth.

It is better to go to the house of mourning

Than to go to the house of feasting.

This is the end of everyone.

The living will lay it to heart.

Sorrow is better

Than laughter.

By sadness of countenance,

The heart is made glad.

The heart of the wise

Is in the house of mourning.

But the heart of fools is

In the house of mirth.

It is better for a man

To hear the rebuke of the wise

Than to hear the song of fools.

Like the crackling of thorns under a pot

So is the laughter of fools.

This also is vanity.

Surely oppression makes the wise foolish.

A bribe corrupts the heart.”

Qoheleth presents a reflection on life and death, like the modern philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). With his phrase Sein zum Tode, from his book Being and Time, Heidegger meant that all human beings were destined to die. It is our purpose in life to die. Therefore we must live our life now in authenticity. Qoheleth starts off by saying how important a good name is, more prized than precious ointment. Also the day of death is more important than the day of your birth. It is better to mourn than to feast. As usual, he points out that everyone will die, so that the living must be aware of that. Sorrow was better than laughter, rather than the other way around. The heart was made glad through a sad face. The truly wise mourn, while the fools live a life of mirth. Listen to the criticisms of the wise rather than the songs of fools. Foolish laughter is like burning thorns crackling on a fire since it is pure vanity and useless. Oppression makes us wiser, but bribes corrupt the heart.

The wicked (Prov 15:26-15:30)

“Evil plans are an abomination to Yahweh.

But gracious words are pure.

Those who are greedy for unjust gain

Make trouble for their household.

But those who hates bribes

Will live.

The mind of the righteous

Ponders how to answer.

But the mouth of the wicked

Pours out evil.

Yahweh is far from the wicked.

But he hears the prayer of the righteous.

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart.

Good news refreshes the body.”

Wicked evil plans are an abomination to Yahweh. Gracious words, on the other hand, are pure. The greedy seek after an unjust gain or profit as they make trouble for their family. If you hate bribes, you will have a long life. The righteous ponder how to answer questions, while the mouths of the wicked pour out evil things. Yahweh stays far away from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous. The light in your eyes rejoices your heart, just as good news refreshes your body.

Those who can be admitted to the Temple (Ps 15:2-15:5)

“Those who walk blamelessly,

Those who do what is right,

Those who speak the truth from their heart,

Those who do not slander with their tongue,

Those who do no evil to their friends,

Those who do not take up a reproach against their neighbor,

Those in whose eyes the wicked are despised,

Those who honor and fear Yahweh,

Those who stand by their oath even to their hurt,

Those who do not lend money at interest,

Those who do not take a bribe against the innocent,

Those who do these things

Shall never be moved.”

Now we find out for sure who can be admitted to the worship of Yahweh. What are the moral pre-requisites? Here we have the list of those allowed into the temple of Yahweh. They walk blamelessly, doing what is right. They speak the truth from their heart. They do not slander. They do not do any evil things to their friends and neighbors. They despise the wicked. They honor and fear Yahweh. They stand by their own even in rough times. They do not lend money at interest. They do not take bribes that hurt the innocent. Doing all these things will get you entrance into the Temple of Yahweh.