Perpetual peace from Jerusalem (Isa 2:2-2:4)

“In days to come

The mountain of Yahweh’s house

Shall be established

As the highest of the mountains.

It shall be raised above the hills.

All the nations shall stream to it.

Many people shall come.

They shall say.

‘Come!

Let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh!

Let us go to the house of the God of Jacob!

Thus he may teach us his ways.

Thus we may walk in his paths.’

Out of Zion

Shall go forth instruction.

The word of Yahweh

Comes from Jerusalem.

He shall judge

Between the nations.

He shall arbitrate for many people.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares.

They shall turn their spears into pruning hooks.

A nation shall not lift up its sword

Against another nation.

Neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Isaiah has a vision of a time of perpetual peace that is often cited by pacifists. However, it comes from Yahweh. The Lord’s house will be on the highest mountain above the hills at Zion in Jerusalem. All the nations of the world would come to the God of the house of Jacob, so that they could learn the ways and paths of Yahweh, the Lord God. Yahweh would arbitrate and judge all nations. Then there is the famous saying that they would beat their swords into plows. They would turn their spears into pruning hooks. No one would lift a sword against anyone else. People would forget how to wage war since no one would learn it. This is the utopian theocratic peace that has Jerusalem rule the world through Yahweh. It has never happened and probably will not.

The treatment of slaves (Sir 33:24-33:29)

“Fodder is for a donkey.

A stick is for a donkey.

A burden is for a donkey.

Bread is for a slave.

Discipline is for a slave.

Work is for a slave.

Set your slave to work.

You will find rest.

If you leave his hands idle,

He will seek liberty.

A yoke will bow his neck.

A thong will bow his neck.

A wicked servant should have

Rack and tortures.

Put him to work.

Thus he may not be idle.

Idleness teaches much evil.

Set him to work,

As is fitting for him.

If he does not obey,

Make his fetters heavy.

Do not be overbearing

Toward anybody.

Do nothing unjust.”

Sirach accepts slavery as a fact of life, not to be disputed. This was a common biblical theme, so that the slave owners who cited the Bible could not be faulted. Slaves were slaves, so what? There was no sense of the idea of an equal fellow human being. In fact, it was clear that they should work hard as there was a comparison of a slave to a donkey. Just as the donkey was fed, whipped, and burdened, so too the slave should be fed with bread, disciplined, and worked hard. If your slave worked hard, you could get some restful idleness time for yourself. You should put a yoke and thong around your slave’s neck. If he was bad, you could beat him up. The slave should never be idle because that would lead to evil and his possible escape. If the slave did not obey, he should be punished. However, there was a limit to this brutality. You should not be overbearing or unjust. Of course, it was your decision to evaluate the situation.