Jerusalem is in sack cloth (Bar 4:17-4:20)

“But I!

How can I help you?

He who brought

These calamities

Upon you

Will deliver you

From the hand

Of your enemies.

Go!

My children!

Go!

I have been left desolate.

I have taken off

The robe of peace.

I put on

Sackcloth

For my supplication.

I will cry

To the Everlasting One

All my days.”

The personification of Jerusalem continued with the first person singular, I. Jerusalem wanted to know how she could help. God, who brought their calamities, was also going to deliver them from the hand of their enemies. Jerusalem told her children to go and leave her. She would be left desolate. She was going to take off her robe of peace and prosperity to put on sackcloth for crying to the Everlasting One, not Yahweh, all her remaining days.

Confession of guilt (Bar 2:6-2:10)

“The Lord

Our God,

Is in the right.

However,

There is open shame

On us

With our ancestors.

This very day,

All those calamities,

With which

The Lord threatened us,

Have come upon us.

Yet we have not entreated

The favor of the Lord,

By turning away,

Each of us,

From the thoughts

Of our wicked hearts.

The Lord

Has kept

The calamities ready.

The Lord has brought them

Upon us.

The Lord is just

In all his works

That he has commanded us

To do.

Yet we have not obeyed

His voice,

To walk

In the statutes

Of the Lord

That he set before us.”

Their Lord was right. Thus they and their ancestors were shamed. The Lord’s threatened disasters have come upon them. However, instead of asking for favors and forgiveness, they turned their thoughts and wicked hearts away from God. The Lord kept these calamities ready to use at any time since he was just. They were the people who would not obey the voice of the Lord in following his statutes. They were guilty of sinning against their Lord and God.

Problems caused by sinful humans (Sir 40:8-40:11)

“With all human creatures,

With all animal creatures,

But with sinners seven times more,

Come many problems.

There is death.

There is bloodshed.

There is strife.

There is the sword.

There are calamities.

There are famines.

There are afflictions.

There are ruins.

There are plagues.

All these were created

For the wicked.

On their account,

The flood came.

All that is of earth

Returns to earth.

What is from above,

Returns above.”

Sirach points out that all creatures, human and animals, have problems, but the sinners have 7 times as many problems as the non-sinners. What are these problems? They are death, bloodshed, strife, the sword, calamities, famines, ruin, and plagues. The reason that we have all these problems is due to the wicked ones who caused God to send the flood. In other words, we might have been okay except for the sinful humans who brought all these problems to our earthly existence. The things of this earth return to this earth, while the things from above return to above.

Swearing oaths (Sir 23:9-23:11)

“Do not accustom your mouth

To oaths!

Do not habitually utter

The name of the Holy One!

As a servant,

Who is constantly under scrutiny,

Will not lack bruises,

So also the person

Who always swears,

Who utters the Name of God,

Will never be cleansed from sin.

Whoever swears many oaths

Is full of iniquity.

The scourge will not leave his house.

If he swears in error,

His sin remains on him.

If he disregards it,

He sins doubly.

If he swears a false oath,

He will not be justified.

His house will be filled

With calamities.”

Sirach does not want us to get accustomed to swearing oaths to the Most Holy One. If you swear too much, you are a like a servant under constant scrutiny who gets bruised by his master. So too, anyone who swears by the Name of God will never be cleansed from their sins. If you are always swearing to God for this or that, you will be full on iniquity, since the scourge will never leave your house. You can actually sin by swearing in error. Then you can double you sin by not fulfilling the false oath that you swore. You will never be justified since your house will be filled with calamities.

The Lord’s actions against pride (Sir 10:13-10:18)

“Therefore the Lord brings upon them

Unheard of calamities.

He destroys them completely.

The Lord overthrows

The thrones of rulers.

He enthrones

The lowly in their place.

The Lord plucks up

The roots of the nations.

He plants the humble

In their place.

The Lord lays waste

The lands of the nations.

He destroys them

To the foundations of the earth.

He removes some of them.

He destroys them.

He erases the memory of them

From the earth.

Pride was not created

For human beings.

Violent anger was not

For those born of women.”

There will be consequences for pride because the Lord will act. The prideful ones will have many afflictions and unheard of calamities. The Lord will destroy them completely. He will overthrow the proud rulers and put humble ones in their place. He will root out nations and have humble ones replace them. He will lay waste to the lands of the proud, destroying them to their foundations. He will remove some and destroy others. Their memory will be erased from this earth. Humans were not created for pride or violent anger.

God will help me in my troubles (Ps 71:19-71:21)

“O God!

You have done great things!

Who is like you?

You have made me

See many troubles!

You have made me

See many calamities!

You will revive me again!

From the depths of the earth

You will bring me up again!

You will increase my honor!

You will comfort me once again!”

God has done great things. There is no one like God. He led the psalmist into many troubles and calamities, but he always revived him. He brought him back from the depths of the earth. God will do so again. God will increase his honor. He will comfort him as he had done in the past.

Nicanor as the governor of Judea (2 Macc 14:11-14:14)

“When Alcimus had said this, the rest of the king’s friends, who were hostile to Judas Maccabeus, quickly inflamed King Demetrius still more. He immediately chose Nicanor, who had been in command of the elephants. He appointed him governor of Judea. He sent him off with orders to kill Judas Maccabeus and scatter his troops. He was to install Alcimus as high priest of the great temple. The gentiles throughout Judea, who had fled before Judas Maccabeus, flocked to join Nicanor. They thought that the misfortunes and calamities of the Jews would mean prosperity for themselves.”

Once again, this is similar but not quite the same as 1 Maccabees, chapter 7. There is no mention of Bacchides here. Instead the leader of the troops and the governor of Judea was Nicanor. Apparently, Nicanor had been in charge of the elephants that seem to have been a big deal in the Syrian army. He may also have been with King Demetrius I when he was in jail in Rome. Now this meant that there was a separate governor for Judea whose sole purpose was to kill Judas Maccabees and disperse his troops. Alcimus was officially made the high priest. The gentiles in the area were happy so that they eagerly joined with Nicanor. The assumption of the gentiles was a zero sum game that if the Jews were in trouble, it would be better for them.