Tax collectors (Lk 3:12-3:12)

“Even tax collectors

Came to be baptized.

They asked him.

‘Teacher!

What shall we do?’”

 

ἦλθον δὲ καὶ τελῶναι βαπτισθῆναι καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν Διδάσκαλε, τί ποιήσωμεν;

 

This is another one of the unique sayings of Luke about John and his preaching that is not found elsewhere in the biblical writings.  Luke said that even tax collectors came to be baptized (ἦλθον δὲ καὶ τελῶναι βαπτισθῆναι).  They asked John (καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν), as their teacher (Διδάσκαλε), what they should do (τί ποιήσωμεν).  Tax collectors had a special role in the biblical writings as they were considered like traitors to the Jewish people, since these were Jewish people who collected the Roman tax from the local people.  However, they seemed capable of repentance, as here they were seeking baptism from John.

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Bel eats and drinks (Dan 14:6-14:7)

“The king said to Daniel.

‘Do you not think

That Bel

Is a living God?

Do you not see

How much he eats,

How much he drinks,

Every day?’

Then Daniel laughed.

He said.

‘Do not be deceived!

O king!

This thing is

Only clay inside,

With bronze,

On the outside.

It never ate

Or drank anything.’”

King Cyrus got into a conversation with Daniel about Bel and his living God. The king maintained that Bel was also a living god, since he was able to eat and drink every day. Then Daniel laughed at him. He told the king not to be deceived. Bel was only made of clay and bronze, so that it was not capable of eating or drinking.

The king explains the situation to Daniel (Dan 5:15-5:16)

“‘Now the wise men,

The enchanters,

Have been brought in

Before me

To read this writing.

They were to tell me

Its interpretation.

But they were not able

To give the interpretation

Of the matter.

But I have heard

That you can give

Interpretations.

You can

Solve problems.

Now if you able

To read the writing,

If you are able

To tell me

Its interpretation,

You shall be clothed

In purple.

You shall have

A chain of gold

Around your neck.

You shall rank third

In the kingdom.’”

The king explained to Daniel that the wise men and enchanters of Babylon were not able to read this writing on the wall. Thus, they were not able to give its interpretation. However, the king had heard that Daniel was capable of giving interpretations and solving problems. Then he made the same offer that he had made to the others. If Daniel was able to read and interpret this writing, he would be clothed in purple, the sign of royalty. He would then have a chain of gold around his neck, indicating that he was the 3rd in command in the kingdom of Babylon, after himself and his father.

The lack of a response (Isa 50:2-50:3)

“Why was no one there,

When I came?

When I called,

Why did no one answer me?

Is my hand shortened,

So that it cannot redeem?

Have I no power to deliver?

By my rebuke,

I dry up the sea.

I make the rivers a desert.

Their fish stink

For lack of water.

They die of thirst.

I clothe the heavens

With blackness.

I make sackcloth their covering.”

Second Isaiah continues with this rebuke of Yahweh. Why was no one there to greet him when he came? Why was no one listening to him when he called? Is he no longer capable of redeeming them? Has he lost his power? After all, he dries up the seas and turns the rivers into deserts. Their fish would stink and die because of a lack of water. He could command the heavens to turn black and put on sackcloth.

Dreams of death (Wis 18:17-18:19)

“Then at once

Apparitions in dreadful dreams

Greatly troubled them.

Unexpected fears assailed them.

One here

Another there,

They were hurled down half dead.

They were made known why they were dying.

The dreams that disturbed them

Forewarned them of this.

Thus they might not perish

Without knowing Why they suffered.”

Apparently, this section is not really tied to the Exodus story, but does concern the problem of death. It is not clear what this refers to since most of the first-born killed were infants and not capable of knowing why they were perishing. However, it could have been the first-born grown children of some families whose first-born would have been older and thus capable of understanding what was happening. Anyway, dreadful or fearful (φόβοι) dreams or apparitions (φαντασίαι) definitely troubled these people before they were hurled half dead. They knew why they were dying because they had been warned. They knew why they were suffering.

The chosen king (Wis 9:5-9:7)

“I am your servant.

I am the son of your serving girl.

I am a man who is weak.

I am short-lived.

I have little understanding of judgment.

I have little understanding of laws.

Even one who is perfect among human beings

Will be regarded as nothing

Without the wisdom that comes from you.

You have chosen me

To be king of your people.

You have chosen me,

To be judge over your sons.

You have chosen me

To be judge over your daughters.”

This author seems to assume the role of Solomon, claiming that he was chosen king by God, with the so-called divine right of kings. In fact, from 1 Kings, chapters1-2, there were some machinations by King David and Bathsheba, his wife and Solomon’s mother, to make this happen. However, this author pleads humility since he was merely the son of a servant girl. Thus he says that he was weak and short-lived, with littler understanding of judgment and laws. Probably he should not have been made king based on this. However, it was God’s wisdom (σοῦ σοφίας) that made him capable of being king (βασιλέα).

The effects of indispensable wisdom (Wis 8:10-8:15)

“Because of her

I shall have glory among the multitudes.

I shall have honor in the presence of the elders,

Even though I am young.

I shall be found keen in judgment.

In the sight of rulers

I shall be admired.

When I am silent,

They will wait for me.

When I speak,

They will give heed.

When I speak at greater length,

They will put their hands on their mouths.

Because of her

I shall have immortality.

I shall leave an everlasting remembrance

To those who come after me.

I shall govern peoples.

Nations will be subject to me.

Dread monarchs will be afraid of me

When they hear of me.

Among the people

I shall show myself capable.

I shall be courageous in war.”

The influence of wisdom on his life was remarkable. Because of wisdom living with him, he had glory among the multitudes and honor among the elders (παρὰ πρεσβυτέροις), even though he was young. His keen judgment was clear among the great rulers (δυναστῶν). When he was silent, they waited for him to speak. When he spoke, they listened and put their hands on their mouths. He now had immortality (ἀθανασίαν) with an everlasting remembrance (μνήμην αἰώνιον) for future generations. He would then govern people. Many nations would be subject to him. Even tyrants (τύραννοι) would be afraid of him. He would be capable and courageous in war.