The wise Qoheleth (Eccl 1:15-1:18)

“‘What is crooked cannot be made straight.

What is lacking cannot be counted.’

I said to myself.

‘I have acquired great wisdom.            

My wisdom surpasses all

Who were over Jerusalem before me.

My mind has had great experience of wisdom.

My mind has had great experience of knowledge.

I applied my mind to know wisdom.

I applied my mind to know madness.

I applied my mind to know folly.

I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.

In much wisdom

Is much vexation.

Those who increases knowledge

Increase sorrow.’”

This book once again has the first person singular of Qoheleth speaking. He points out, quite correctly, that the crooked cannot be made straight. However, you can come close. On the other hand, there is no doubt that you cannot count something that is not there. Then Qoheleth gets quite personal. He explains that he has great wisdom and knowledge, greater than anyone whoever was in Jerusalem before him. He knows the difference between wisdom, madness, and folly. In a kind of reversal of the Proverbs, he seems to imply that that with all this wisdom, he is still like chasing after the wind. More problems and vexation come with wisdom. There is an increase in sorrow that comes with more knowledge. Wisdom is not the be all and end all like in Proverbs.

The wicked (Prov 24:23-24:26)

“These also are sayings of the wise.

Partiality in judging is not good.

He who says to the wicked,

‘You are innocent’

Will be cursed by their people.

They will be abhorred by the nations.

But those who rebuke the wicked

Will have delight.

They will have a good blessing come upon them.

Whoever gives an honest answer,

Gives a kiss on the lips.”

Apparently this is another small collection of wise sayings that was not associated with the preceding collection. This section seems to be aimed at judges and how they judge people since they should not be partial. In particular, they should not let the wicked go free. They will be cursed by their own people. Furthermore, in an international outlook, other nations will also abhor them. However, if they judge correctly against the wicked ones, they will delight in this life with blessings coming to them. An honest answer is like giving a kiss on the lips.

Be careful (Prov 22:5-22:8)

“Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse.

The cautious will keep far from them.

Train children in the right way.

Then when they are old,

They will not stray.

The rich rule over the poor.

The borrower is the slave of the lender.

Whoever sows injustice

Will reap calamity,

The rod of anger will fail.”

The way of the perverse is full of thorns and snares, so keep away from them. If you train children correctly, they will not stray when they are old. The rich will rule over the poor. The borrower becomes the slave of the lender. If you sow injustice, you will harvest calamity. Beatings in anger will fail.

Evil doers (Prov 21:5-21:8)

“The plans of the diligent

Lead surely to abundance.

But everyone who is hasty

Comes only to want.

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue

Is a fleeting vapor

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue

Is a snare for death.

The violence of the wicked

Will sweep them away.

They refuse to do what is just.

The way of the guilty is crooked.

But the conduct of the pure is right.”

Diligent plans will lead to abundance, but hasty plans will only come up wanting. If you get money by a lying tongue it will be like a fleeting breath that leads to a death trap. The very violence of the wicked will sweep them away, since they refuse to do what is just. The guilty go on a crooked path, but the pure conduct their way correctly.

The role of the king (Prov 16: 10-16:15)

“Inspired decisions are on the lips of a king.

His mouth does not sin in judgment.

Honest balances and scales are Yahweh’s.

All the weights in the bag are his work.

It is an abomination for kings to do evil.

The throne is established by righteousness.

Righteous lips are the delight of a king,

He loves those who speak what is right.

A king’s wrath is a messenger of death.

Whoever is wise will appease it.

In the light of a king’s face

There is life.

His favor is like the clouds

That bring the spring rain.”

This next section follows the medieval concept of the diving right of kings. Thus the king speaks in the name of Yahweh. His decisions are thus inspired by Yahweh. He does not sin in making his judgments. He expects, like Yahweh, to have honest scales and balances, so that there should not be any false weights in bags on the scales. Thus, it is an abomination for a king to do evil because the throne was established by righteousness, which should be the delight of the king. The king loves those who speak correctly and rightly. On the other hand, his wrath is a messenger of death. The wise ones are able to appease his anger. You will have life if the king’s face lights upon you. His favors are like refreshing spring rains.

Judith is led to the tent of General Holofernes (Jdt 10:14-10:17)

“The men heard her words. They observed her face. She was in their eyes marvelously beautiful. They said to her.

‘You have saved your life by hurrying down to see our lord.

Go at once to his tent.

Some of us will escort you.

We will hand you over to him.  

When you stand before him,

Have no fear in your heart.

Tell him what you have just said.

He will treat you well.’

They chose from their number a hundred men to accompany her and her maid. They brought them to the tent of General Holofernes.”

The Assyrian troops heard her words and say her face. They realized that she was beautiful.   There was never a question of language or interpretation for they seem to be able to communicate with each other very easily. They told her that she had saved her life. They wanted to escort her to go to the general’s tent as 100 of the soldiers were to escort her and her maid. They told her not to fear the general because he would treat them correctly. She should just say what she had told them. So the 2 ladies set out with a 100 man escort to see General Holofernes.