The walled in situation (Lam 3:7-3:9)

Gimel

“Yahweh has walled me about

So that I cannot escape.

He has put heavy chains

On me.

Although I call,

Although I cry for help,

He shuts out

My prayer.

He has blocked

My ways

With hewn stones.

He has made

My paths crooked.”

This author feels walled in. He cannot escape, because he has heavy chains on him. When he calls for help, no one listens to him. Yahweh has blocked his way with carved stone walls. He can no longer walk a straight path, since all his paths are crooked, like a maze. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Gimel in this acrostic poem.

Advertisements

How a carpenter makes false idols (Wis 13:11-13:16)

“A skilled woodcutter

May saw down a tree

That is easy to handle.

He skillfully strips off all its bark.

Then with pleasing workmanship

He makes a useful vessel

That serves life’s needs.

He burns the castoff pieces of his work.

Thus he prepares his food.

He eats his fill.

But he takes a castoff piece

From among them,

That is useful for nothing,

A crooked stick,

Full of knots.

He carves with care in his leisure.

He shapes it with skill gained in idleness.

He forms it in the likeness of a human being.

He makes it like some worthless animal.

He gives it a coat of red paint.

He colors its surface red.

He covers every blemish in it with paint.

Then he makes a suitable niche for it.

He sets it in the wall.

He fastens it there with iron.

He takes thought for it.

Thus it may not fall.

Because he knows

That it cannot help itself.

It is only an image.

It has need of help.”

This is a satirical description of how these false images were made by a skilled woodcutter or carpenter. Obviously this carpenter makes some useful vessels for eating and other purposes. He takes a tree and strips the bark. He then burns the left over wood for cooking. However, he may take some of this useless crooked knotted wood and carve some images in his spare time. He will probably make an image of a human (εἰκόνι ἀνθρώπου) or an animal. Then he will paint it red to cover all the blemishes. After that, he will fasten it with iron on a wall niche in an area so that it will not fall off. He knows that his carved image needs help to sit on a wall. Clearly there is nothing divine about this process or the resulting useless image (εἰκὼν).

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 senseless (Prov 17:18-17:20)

“It is senseless

To give a pledge.

It is senseless

To becomes surety for a neighbor.

Whoever loves transgression

Loves strife.

Whoever builds a high threshold

Invites broken bones.

The crooked of mind do not prosper.

The perverse of tongue fall into calamity.”

Do not give a pledge for your neighbor. If you love transgressions, then get ready to love strife. If you build a high threshold, you are inviting danger because some tall strong people might come into your house to hurt you. This might also be a sign that you are showing pride. The crooked and the perverse do not prosper, but fall into calamity or danger.

Lady wisdom speaks (Prov 8:1-8:11)

“Does not wisdom call?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights,

Beside the way,

At the crossroads,

She takes her stand.

Beside the gates

In front of the town,

At the entrance of the portals,

She cries out.

‘To you!

O people!

I call!

My cry is to all that live.

O simple ones!

Learn prudence!

Acquire intelligence!

You who lack it!

Hear!

I will speak noble things,

From my lips

Will come what is right.

My mouth will utter truth.

Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are righteous.

There is nothing twisted or crooked in them.

They are all straight to one who understands.

They are right to those who find knowledge.

Take my instruction instead of silver.

Take my knowledge rather than choice gold.

Wisdom is better than jewels.

All that you may desire cannot compare with her.’”

Lady wisdom is calling. Unlike the prostitute or adulterous woman, you should listen to her. Lady wisdom is all over the place. She raises her voice at the heights, at the crossroads, beside the town gates, and at the town entrance. There is no reason to miss her.   Her cry is to all who live, not a particular person. The simpletons were to learn prudence and intelligence. She was going to speak noble things that were right and true. There would be no wickedness, but only righteousness. Nothing is crooked, since everything is straight. You should value her instructions and knowledge more than silver, gold, or jewels. Nothing can compare with lady wisdom.

Keep on the straight and narrow (Prov 4:20-4:27)

“My child!

Be attentive to my words!

Incline your ear to my sayings.

Do not let them escape from your sight.

Keep them within your heart!

They are life to those who find them.

They are healing to all their flesh.

Keep your heart with all vigilance!

The springs of life flow from your heart.

Put away from you crooked speech!

Put devious talk far from you!

Let your eyes look directly forward.

Your gaze should be straight before you.

Keep straight the path of your feet!

Then all your ways will be sure.

Do not swerve to the right or to the left!

Turn your foot away from evil!”

The parental fatherly advice concludes this chapter. They are to keep on the straight and narrow path. Once again, he asks his children to be attentive and listen to his words. They are not to let his words escape, but rather keep them in their hearts. If they do that, then they will have life and healing. The heart is where all life comes from, so that your heart had to be vigilant. They were not to have crooked or devious speech. Their eyes should always be looking forward with a gaze straight ahead. They had to keep their feet on the straight path, never swerving to the right or the left. They were, of course, to stay away from evil.

Prayer for deliverance (Ps 125:1-125:5)

A song of ascents

“Those who trust in Yahweh

Are like Mount Zion.

It cannot be moved.

It abides forever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

So Yahweh surrounds his people,

From this time on and forevermore.

The scepter of wickedness shall not rest

On the land allotted to the righteous.

Thus the righteous might not stretch out

Their hands to do wrong.

Do good!

Yahweh!

Do good

To those who are good!

Do good

To those who are upright in their hearts!

But those who turn aside

To their own crooked ways,

Yahweh will lead away with evildoers.

Peace be upon Israel!”

Psalm 125 is another of these short psalms or songs of pilgrimage on the way to ascending towards Jerusalem. They trusted in Yahweh, the way that they trusted in Mount Zion since it could not be moved and would last forever. Just as the mountains surrounded Jerusalem, so too Yahweh surrounds his people today and forevermore. Wickedness will not rest in the land of the righteous so that they will never do wrong. Yahweh was to do good to the good people. He was to be good to the righteous. However, those who follow the crooked ways would be led away with the evildoers. Peace or Shalom should be upon all Israel.