The inside and outside of the cup (Mt 23:25-23:26)

“Woe to you!

Scribes!

Woe to you!

Pharisees!

Hypocrites!

You clean

The outside

Of the cup

And of the plate.

But inside,

They are full

Of greed

And self-indulgence.

You blind Pharisees!

First cleanse

The inside

Of the cup

And of the plate.

Thus,

The outside

May be clean also.”

 

Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι ὑποκριταί, ὅτι καθαρίζετε τὸ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ποτηρίου καὶ τῆς παροψίδος, ἔσωθεν δὲ γέμουσιν ἐξ ἁρπαγῆς καὶ ἀκρασίας.

Φαρισαῖε τυφλέ, καθάρισον πρῶτον τὸ ἐντὸς τοῦ ποτηρίου ἵνα γένηται καὶ τὸ ἐκτὸς αὐτοῦ καθαρόν.

 

There is something similar in Luke, chapter 11:39-40, but Jesus was eating with the Pharisees there.  Here, Jesus continued to curse the Pharisees and the Scribes, much like earlier in verses 13, 14, and 15.  The first part of this diatribe is exactly the same as those earlier verses.  Woe to you (Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν)!  Scribes (γραμματεῖς)!  Woe to you!  Pharisees (καὶ Φαρισαῖοι)!  Hypocrites (ὑποκριταί)!  There is no doubt that here Jesus was cursing the Scribes and the Pharisees.  This time it was against the Pharisees for their impure hearts or intentions.  They cleaned the outside of the cup and the plate (ὅτι καθαρίζετε τὸ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ποτηρίου καὶ τῆς παροψίδος), but let the inside remain full of greed or robbery and self-indulgence (ἔσωθεν δὲ γέμουσιν ἐξ ἁρπαγῆς καὶ ἀκρασίας).  Jesus called them blind Pharisees (Φαρισαῖε τυφλέ).  He reminded them to first clean the inside of their cups and their plates (ὅτι καθαρίζετε τὸ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ποτηρίου καὶ τῆς παροψίδος,).  Then. the outside would be clean also (ἵνα γένηται καὶ τὸ ἐκτὸς αὐτοῦ καθαρόν).  Their interior heart was important.

The leper (Mt 8:2-8:2)

“There was a leper

Who came to Jesus.

He knelt before him.

Saying.

‘Lord!

If you choose,

You can make me clean.’”

 

καὶ ἰδοὺ λεπρὸς προσελθὼν προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγων Κύριε, ἐὰν θέλῃς δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι.

 

This leper story can be found in Luke, chapter 5:12, and Mark, chapter 1:40, perhaps indicating Mark as the source, since Matthew was closer to Mark.  A leper came to Jesus (καὶ ἰδοὺ λεπρὸς προσελθὼν).  Leprosy was some kind of skin disease that was usually found among poor people.  Today, there are about 2,000,000 people with leprosy or Hansen’s disease, mostly in India, Indonesia, and Brazil.  The Greek word “λεπρὸς” used here is a broader definition of leprosy than just Hansen’s disease.  Leprosy was a religious problem also.  What to do about it was clearly defined in Leviticus, chapters 13-14.  Leprosy in the wide sense was considered unclean and had religious connotations, since only a priest could declare a person clean with a distinct ritual for cleansing the leper.  As a leper, you were considered unclean and not fit to live in normal communal life.  This leper then knelt down before Jesus as to offer obedience to him (προσεκύνει αὐτῷ).  Then he spoke to Jesus, calling him Lord (λέγων Κύριε).  Then the leper asked Jesus to cure him if he wanted to (ἐὰν θέλῃς).  He knew that Jesus had the power to do this, since many prophets had cured lepers.  The leper was asking Jesus to perform as a prophet and make him clean (δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι), so that he could join normal Jewish society again.

The defilement of the dead (Ezek 44:25-44:27)

“‘They shall not defile

Themselves

By getting near

To a dead person.

However,

They may defile

Themselves

For a father,

For a mother,

For a son,

For a daughter,

For a brother,

Or for an unmarried sister.

After he has become clean,

They shall count

Seven days for him.

Then he shall be clean.

On the day

That he goes

Into the holy place,

Into the inner court,

To minister

In the holy place,

He shall offer

His sin offering.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh God told Ezekiel what to do about the Zadok Levitical priests who defiled themselves by going near a dead person. They were not supposed to go close to a dead person. However, there were occasions when these priests could go near a dead person, and thus, defile themselves. In particular, this usually meant a close family member, a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a brother, or an unmarried sister. Yet they would have to become clean again. They would have to wait 7 days before they could be clean. Then they would have to offer a sin offering for themselves in the holy place.

The filthy rust remained (Ezek 24:12-24:13)

“In vain,

I have wearied myself.

Its thick rust

Does not depart

By the fire.

Yet,

When I cleansed you

In your filthy lewdness,

You did not become clean

From your filth.

You shall not again

Be cleansed

Until I have satisfied

My fury

Upon you.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, was upset that the thick rust did not leave the pot, even with all the burning fire. Yahweh had tried to cleanse them of their filthy lewdness, but they did not come clean from this dirt. Yahweh then said that he was not going to clean them again until his fury was satisfied.

The wicked priests (Ezek 22:26-22:26)

“The Jerusalem priests

Have done violence

To my teaching.

They have profaned

My holy things.

They have made

No distinction

Between the holy

With the common.

Neither have they

Taught the difference

Between the unclean

With the clean.

They have disregarded

My Sabbath.

Thus I am profaned

Among them.”

Even the priests in Jerusalem were doing violence to the teaching of Yahweh. They had profaned his holy things, since they were not making any distinction between the holy things and the common things. They did not distinguish between the clean and the unclean items. They disregarded the Sabbath practices. Thus they profaned Yahweh among themselves.

The unclean land (Ezek 22:23-22:24)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Son of man!

Say to her!

You are a land

That is not cleansed.

You are a land

Not rained upon

In the day of indignation.’”

Once again there is another oracle that Yahweh gave to Ezekiel, the son of man. He was to tell the people of Jerusalem that they were a land that was not clean. There was no rain to cleanse them on the day of Yahweh’s indignation.

The dialog about defilement (Ezek 4:14-4:15)

“Then I said.

‘Yahweh God!

I have never

Defiled myself.

From my youth

Up until now,

I have never eaten

What died of itself

Or was torn by animals.

Carrion decaying flesh

Has never

Come into my mouth.’

Then he said to me.

‘See!

I will let you have

Cow’s dung

Instead of human dung.

You can prepare

Your bread on that.’”

Ezekiel was upset about eating unclean bread. He complained to Yahweh that he had never defiled himself from his youth on. He had never eaten anything that died of itself or any torn up animals. This meant that he ate only slaughtered animals. He had never touched decaying or the carrion flesh of dead animals. We might call it road kill animals. Yahweh responded that he would let him cook his barley cakes on animal dung, which was not considered unclean. Human excrement, however, was considered unclean. This was an indication of the obsession of later Israelites about touching and eating clean and unclean animals.

They will be ashamed (Jer 13:25-13:27)

“Says Yahweh.

‘This is your lot.

This is the portion

I have measured out to you.

Because you have forgotten me.

You trusted in lies.

I myself will lift up your skirts

Over your face.

Your shame will be seen.

I have seen your abominations.

I have seen your adulteries.

I have seen your neighing.

I have seen your shameless prostitution

On the hills of the countryside.

Woe to you!

O Jerusalem!

How long will it be

Before you are made clean?’”

Yahweh was really upset, as Jeremiah indicates. Yahweh has chosen their lot and measured the size of it. They had forgotten Yahweh, but trusted in lies. Thus Yahweh was going to violate them by lifting up their skirts over their face, so that everyone could see the shame of their nakedness. Yahweh had seen enough of their abominations that included adultery, complaining, and senseless prostitution on the hills in the countryside. Thus Yahweh issued his curse on them. He had no idea how long it would take to make them clean.

The drinking priests and prophets (Isa 28:7-28:8)

“They also reel with wine.

They stagger with strong drink.

The priests reel with strong drink.

The prophets reel with strong drink.

They are confused with wine.

They stagger with strong drink.

They err in vision.

They stumble in giving judgment.

All tables are covered

With vomit.

No place is clean.”

Isaiah does not paint a pretty picture of these northern priests and prophets. They reel and stagger around because of strong drink. They are confused and wobble around because of their drinking habits. They have false visions and stumble when giving judgment. In colorful descriptive language, Isaiah says that their tables were so covered with vomit from drinking that there was no clean place on them.

 

The seraphim approach Isaiah (Isa 6:6-6:7)

“Then one of the seraphim

Flew to me.

He was holding

A live burning coal

That he had taken

From the altar

With tongs.

The seraph touched

My mouth with it.

He said.

‘Now that this has touched your lips,

Your guilt has departed.

Your sin blotted out.’”

One of the seraphim flew over to Isaiah, holding a burning coal taken from the altar with tongs. This seraph touched the mouth of Isaiah with the burning coals. Then he said that his guilt and sin had been blotted out and gone away. Isaiah was made clean.