Respect for others (Sir 8:4-8:7)

“Do not make fun of one

Who is ill-bred.

Otherwise your ancestors may be insulted.

Do not reproach one

Who is turning away from sin.

Remember that we all deserve punishment.

Do not disdain one

Who is old.

Some of us are also growing old.

Do not rejoice over any one’s death.

Remember that we all must die.”

Sirach reminds us that we should respect other people. We should not make fun of ill bred people because some of our ancestors might be insulted. We should not criticize a penitent, since all of us deserve punishment. We should not make fun of old people because some of us are getting old. We should not rejoice over the death of anyone because we too are going to die.

Egypt was more culpable than Sodom (Wis 19:13-19:17)

“The punishments did not come upon the sinners

Without prior signs

With the violence of thunder.

They justly suffered

Because of their wicked acts.

They practiced a more bitter hatred of strangers.

Others had refused to receive strangers

When they came to them.

But these made slaves of guests

Who were their benefactors.

Not only so,

While punishment of some sort

Will come upon the former

For having received strangers with hostility,

The latter,

Having first received them with festal celebrations,

Afterward afflicted them with terrible sufferings.

They had already shared the same rights.

They were stricken also with loss of sight.

Just as were those at the door of the righteous man.

When surrounded by yawning darkness,

Each tried to find the way through their own door.”

Who was worse, the Egyptians or the Sodomites from Genesis, chapters 18-19? Did the Egyptians deserve to be punished? The decision rested on how they treated strangers. Interesting enough, the argument is not about immorality but about hospitality. There is no explicit mention of Sodom or Egypt, but the implications are clear. These Egyptians were clearly warned with the various plagues. Instead of refusing strangers, the Egyptians had welcomed the Israelites, especially based on the stories about Joseph in Genesis, chapters 37-47. There his whole family, father and brothers, the sons of Jacob were welcomed into Egypt. However, as pointed out at the beginning of Exodus, chapters 1 and 5, they then enslaved them and tried to kill the Israelite male babies. Unlike the Sodomites they were not blind, but simply lived in darkness. This story about blindness is clearly from the Sodomite story in Genesis.

Lessons from divine judgment (Wis 12:19-12:22)

“Through such works,

You have taught your people.

The righteous man must be kind.

You filled your children with good hope.

Because you give repentance for sins.

If you punish with such great care,

If you punish with such great indulgence,

The enemies of your servants,

As well as those deserving of death,

You grant them time to give up their wickedness.

You grant them the opportunity to give up their wickedness.

With what strictness

You have judged your children.

Our ancestors gave oaths.

They gave covenants full of good promises!

While chastening us,

You scourge our enemies

Ten thousand times more.

Thus when we judge,

We may meditate upon your goodness.

When we are judged,

We may expect mercy.”

We have to learn something from the actions of God. We learn that the righteous person (τὸν δίκαιον) must be kind (φιλάνθρωπον), just like God. We need to have hope for repentance (μετάνοιαν) just like our sons or children (τοὺς υἱούς σου), when we punish them with care and indulgence. Our enemies deserve death, but we should grant them an opportunity in a time and place (χρόνους καὶ τόπον) to give up their wickedness, just like our children. Our ancestors gave oaths, promises, and covenants. Thus God punishes us, but he punishes our enemies 10,000 times more. When we judge others, we should remember the goodness of God. When we are judged, we expect mercy (ἔλεος).

The perverse simple fools (Prov 14:14-14:19)

“The perverse get what their ways deserve.

The good get what their deeds deserve.

The simple believes everything.

But the clever consider their steps.

The wise are cautious.

They turn away from evil.

But the fool throws off restraint.

The fool is careless.

One who is quick tempered

Acts foolishly.

The schemer is hated.

The simple are adorned with folly.

But the clever are crowned with knowledge.

The evil bow down before the good.

The wicked are at the gates of the righteous.”

Both the perverse and the good get what they deserve based on their ways and deeds. The simple believe everything, but the clever ones watch their steps. The wise clever ones are cautious. They turn away from evil. The foolish ones throw off restraint and are careless. As usual, it is better to be good and wise than a simple perverse fool. The quick tempered ones act foolishly. The schemers are hated. The simple ones are full of folly, but the clever ones are crowned with knowledge. The evil wicked ones bow down before the gates of the good and righteous ones.

Yahweh should destroy the wicked (Ps 94:1-94:3)

“Yahweh!

You God of vengeance!

You God of vengeance!

Shine forth!

Rise up!

O judge of the earth!

Give to the proud what they deserve!

Yahweh!

How long shall the wicked survive?

How long shall the wicked exult?”

Psalm 94 has no title so that it seems like a call to have Yahweh take vengeance on the wicked ones. Yahweh is a God of vengeance. The psalmist wanted God to shine forth and rise up. He wanted Yahweh to judge the earth. He wanted the proud to get what they deserve. He wanted to know how long would the wicked survive and exult themselves.

Elihu explains that God is always just (Job 34:10-34:15)

“Therefore, hear me!

You men of understanding!

Far be it from God

That he should do wickedness.

Far be it from the Almighty Shaddai

That he should do wrong.

According to their deeds

He will repay them.

According to his ways

He will make it befall them.

Of a truth,

God will not do wickedly.

The Almighty Shaddai will not pervert justice.

Who gave him charge over the earth?

Who laid on him the whole world?

If he should take back his Spirit to himself,

If he should gather to himself his breath,

All flesh would perish together.

All mortals would return to dust.”

Once again, Elihu turned to the 3 wise men. They should listen to him. God cannot do wickedness. He does not do wrong things. Thus according to your deeds you will be repaid. You will get what you deserve. The almighty God will not pervert justice. He is in charge of the earth and the whole world. If he wanted to take his Spirit back, then all humans would perish and return to dust. The all powerful God had control of everything even human lives.

Zophar chimes in (Job 11:1-11:6)Zophar chimes in (Job 11:1-11:6)

“Then Zophar the Naamathite answered.

‘Should a multitude of words go unanswered?

Should one full of talk be vindicated?

Should your babble put others to silence?

When you mock,

Shall no one shame you?

You say.

‘My conduct is pure.

I am clean in God’s sight.’

But O that God would speak!

If he would open his lips to you!

He would tell you the secrets of wisdom!

Wisdom is many-sided.

Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.’”

Finally we hear from Zophar. He cannot let so many words go unanswered. He seems to chide Job harsher than the other 2 comforters. Talk does not itself vindicate. If Job continued to babble, was everyone to be silent? Someone had to speak out. Job had protested that he was innocent in God’s sight. But has he heard God say that? God could tell you in his secret wisdom the many sides of things. God is merciful and exacts less than the guilty deserve. Notice the link between God and wisdom, which is key to the wisdom or sapiential biblical literature.