The hymn of praise (Sir 39:16-39:21)

“All the works of the Lord

Are very good.

Whatever he commands

Will be done

At the appointed time.

No one can say.

‘What is this?’

‘Why is that?’

At the appointed time,

All such questions

Will be answered.

At his word,

The waters stood in a heap.

The reservoirs of water

Stop in a heap

At the word of his mouth.

At his commands,

His every purpose is fulfilled.

None can limit his saving power.

The works of all

Are before him.

Nothing can be hidden

From his eyes.

From the beginning

To the end of time,

He can see everything.

Nothing is too marvelous for him.

No one can say.

‘What is this?’

‘Why is that?’

Everything has been created

For its own purpose.”

Sirach begins this hymn of praise to the Lord by saying that all his works are very good. The Lord commands everything in his own time. No one should question him with what is this or why is it that way. All the questions will be answered at the appropriate time. He made the waters and the reservoirs of water stand in a heap. No one can limit his saving power since all his commands get followed. He sees everything, since nothing can be hidden from him, since the beginning of time to the end of time. Nothing is too marvelous for him. Therefore no one should question the Lord because everything has a purpose.

Parental wisdom teaching (Prov 4:1-4:9)

“Children!

Listen to a father’s instruction!

Be attentive!

Thus you may gain insight into truth.

I give you good precepts.

Do not forsake my teaching.

When I was a son with my father,

I was tender.

I was my mother’s favorite.

He taught me.

He said to me.

‘Let your heart hold fast my words.

Keep my commandments.

Thus you will live.

Get wisdom!

Get insight!

Do not forget!

Do not turn away from the words of my mouth!

Do not forsake her!

She will keep you.

Love her!

Thus she will guard you.

The beginning of wisdom is this.

Get wisdom!

Whatever else you get,

Get insight!

Prize her highly!

Thus she will exalt you.

She will honor you

If you embrace her.

She will place on your head

A fair garland.

She will bestow on you

A beautiful crown.’”

Once again, we have paternal instruction. This father wanted his children to be attentive so that they could gain some insight. He wanted them not to forget his good teaching, since he was only doing what his father had done to him. He had been the favorite of his mother. He believed that he should follow his father’s words and commands. If they did the same, they would have a good life. In a tautology, he said that the beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom. Wow! They were to get wisdom and insight, first and foremost. They were not to forsake lady wisdom. If they kept her, she would keep them. If they loved wisdom, she would protect them. If they prized her, she would exalt them. If they embraced her, she would honor them. Thus they would have a wonderful Roman garland and a beautiful crown.

Praise Yahweh for all he does for you (Ps 147:12-147:20)

“Praise Yahweh!

O Jerusalem!

Praise your God!

O Zion!

He strengthens the bars of your gates.

He blesses your sons within you.

He grants peace in your borders.

He fills you with the finest of wheat.

He sends out his command to the earth.

His word runs swiftly.

He gives snow like wool.

He scatters frost like ashes.

He hurls down hail like crumbs.

Who can stand before his cold?

He sends out his word.

He melts them.

He makes his wind blow.

He makes the waters flow.

He declares his word to Jacob.

He declares his statutes and ordinances to Israel.

He has not dealt thus with any other nation.

They do not know his ordinances.

Praise Yahweh!”

The end of this alleluia psalm naturally has the phrase “praise Yahweh,” another way of saying the Hebrew “Hallelujah.” This section begins and ends with that phrase. This is a long description of what Yahweh is doing in the current time to help Israel with the use of the present tense. He keeps the bars strong on the gates into the town. He blesses them with children. He grants them peace at home. He fills them with a good harvest of wheat. Yahweh commands the whole earth. His word controls the climate as snow, frost, and hail follow his command. He sends out his wind to make the snow melt and the waters flow in the various rivers. He has given his word, his statutes, and his ordinances to Jacob or Israel. No other nation is like Israel. Notice that this is not the Mosaic code but the ordinances of Jacob.

Rescue me (Ps 119:153-119:160)

Resh

“Look on my misery!

Rescue me!

I do not forget your law.

Plead my cause!

Redeem me!

Give me life

According to your promise!

Salvation is far from the wicked.

They do not seek your statutes.

Great is your mercy!

Yahweh!

Give me life

According to your justice!

Many are my persecutors.

Many are my adversaries.

Yet I do not swerve from your decrees.

I look at the faithless with disgust.

Because they do not keep your commands.

Consider how I love your precepts!

Preserve my life

According to your steadfast love!

The sum of your word is truth.

Every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.”

This psalmist wanted to be rescued from his misery because he had not forgotten the law. He wanted a defense attorney and a redeemer. He wanted his life as Yahweh had promised. The wicked would not be saved because they did not seek Yahweh’s statutes. Yahweh’s mercy was great so that his justice would also help him. Although he had many persecutors and adversaries the psalmist did not swerve from Yahweh’s decrees. He looked at the unfaithful in disgust because they did not keep Yahweh’s commands. He, on the other hand, loved Yahweh’s precepts. He wanted his life preserved because of Yahweh’s love. The word of Yahweh is truth so that every one of his just ordinances would endure forever. So ends this section on the twentieth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Resh.

 

The true sense of God’s justice (Job 36:5-36:12)

“Surely God is mighty.

He does not despise anyone.

He is mighty in strength of understanding.

He does not keep the wicked alive.

He gives the afflicted their right.

He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous.

With kings upon the throne

He sets them forever.

They are exalted.

If they are bound in fetters,

And caught in the cords of affliction,

Then he declares to them their work.

He declares their transgressions.

They are behaving arrogantly.

He opens their ears to instruction.

He commands that they return from iniquity.

If they listen,

If they serve him,

They complete their days in prosperity.

They complete their years in pleasantness.

But if they do not listen,

They shall perish by the sword.

They die without knowledge.”

Elihu ascribes to God the qualities that he believes a divine power should have. The almighty God does not despise anyone. He is mighty in strength and understanding. He does not keep the wicked alive. He watches the righteous. The kings have their thrones forever. However, if there are transgressions as when they act arrogantly, God would open their ears to instruction. He commands them to open their ears to instructions on how to return from their iniquity. If they listen properly and serve God, they will complete their years in pleasant prosperity. If they do not listen they will perish by the sword without any knowledge. The choice was simple, follow God, and all will be good. Go against God, and you will die.

Job responds that God is powerful (Job 9:1-9:12)

“Then Job answered.

‘Indeed I know that it is so.

But how can a man be just before God?

If one wished to contend with him,

One could not answer him once in a thousand times.

God has a wise heart.

He is mighty in strength.

Who has resisted God?

Who has succeeded?

He removes mountains.

They do not know it,

When he overturns them in his anger.

Who shakes the earth out of its place?

Who makes its pillars tremble?

Who commands the sun?

It does not rise without him.

Who seals up the stars?

Who alone stretched out the heavens?

Who trampled the waves of the sea?

Who made the Bear?

Who made the Orion?

Who made the Pleiades?

Who made the chambers of the south?

Who does great things beyond understanding?

Who does marvelous things without number?

Look!

He passes by me.

I do not see him.

He moves on.

But I do not perceive him.

He snatches away.

Who can stop him?

Who will say to him?

‘What are you doing?’”

Job posed the basic question of how could a mere moral become just before God? What is righteousness? In a sense he is answering Eliphaz rather than Bildad. God is a thousand times better than man. He is wise and strong. Who could resist God successfully? He moves mountains in his anger and they do not even know it. He commands the sun, the stars, and the waves of the sea.  He makes all the heavenly constellations of stars like the Bear, the Orion, and the Pleiades. In fact these clusters of stars were sometimes thought of as gods. God stretches out the heavens like a tent. He does great marvelous things that we sometimes do not understand. He passes by and we don’t see him. No one asks him what he is doing. He just does it. No one can stop him.

The death of Alcimus (1 Macc 9:54-9:57)

“In the one hundred and fifty-third year in the second month, Alcimus gave orders to tear down the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary. He tore down the work of the prophets! But he only began to tear it down, for at that time Alcimus was stricken. His work was hindered. His mouth was stopped. He was paralyzed, so that he could no longer say a word or give commands concerning his house. Alcimus died at that time in great agony. When Bacchides saw that Alcimus was dead, he returned to the king. The land of Judah had rest for two years.”

In 159 BCE the high priest Alcimus, who was chosen by the Syrian King Demetrius I, died. Alcimus had begun to tear down the inner wall that had been built by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. However, as Alcimus began this project he was stricken and died. He became paralyzed so that he could no longer lead this work. He died in great agony. Then Bacchides returned to King Demetrius I in Syria, so that there was no fighting for 2 years.

The siege of the citadel in Jerusalem (1 Macc 6:18-6:27)

“Meanwhile, the garrison in the citadel kept hemming Israel in around the sanctuary. They were trying in every way to harm the Israelites and strengthen the gentiles. Judas, therefore, resolved to destroy them. He assembled all the people to besiege them. They gathered together and besieged the citadel in the one hundred fiftieth year. Judas built siege towers and other engines of war. But some of the garrison escaped from the siege. Even some of the ungodly Israelites joined them. They went to the king and said.

‘How long will you fail to do justice?

How long will you fail to avenge our kindred?

We were happy to serve your father.

We were happy to live by what he said.

We were happy to follow his commands.

For this reason the sons of our people besieged the citadel.

They became hostile to us.

Moreover, they have put to death

As many of us as they have caught.

They have seized our inheritances.

It is not against us alone that they have stretched out their hands.

They have also attacked all the lands on their borders.

See, today they have encamped

Against the citadel in Jerusalem to take it.

They have fortified both the sanctuary and Beth-zur.

Unless you quickly prevent them,

They will do still greater things.

You will not be able to stop them.’”

The citadel was the high point in Jerusalem. The small garrison of Syrian soldiers there kept the Jews hemmed in around the Temple. This took place 1 year after the death of King Antiochus IV, in 162 so that the new young King Antiochus V was only 10 years old. Judas Maccabeus gathered the people together and set up siege towers against the citadel. However, the gentiles and even some of the ungodly Israelites went to the young king to complain. They were willing to follow his father’s commands, which is why they took the citadel. Now these Jews have seized their inheritance. They have attacked the people on their borders. Now they are attacking the citadel in the city itself. Unless something was done quickly, they would not be able to stop these people.