The scattering (Ezek 22:14-22:16)

“Can your courage

Endure?

Can your hands

Remain strong,

In the days

When I shall deal

With you?

I,

Yahweh,

Have spoken.

I will do it.

I will scatter you

Among the nations.

I will disperse you

Throughout the countries.

I will purge

Your filthiness

Out of you.

I shall be profaned

Through you                         

In the sight

Of the nations.

You shall know

That I am Yahweh.”

Yahweh was going to scatter the people of Jerusalem into many other countries. He wanted to know if they had enough courage to endure this. Were their hands strong enough? He was going to deal with them. Yahweh was clear about what he was going to do. He was going to scatter and disperse them among the various nations and countries. He was going to purge the filthiness out of Jerusalem. Yahweh would be embarrassed that this scattering would take place in the sight of these other nations. They would all know that he was Yahweh, their God.

Yahweh and the Judeans (Lam 5:19-5:20)

“But you!

O Yahweh!

You reign forever!

Your throne

Endures

To all generations.

Why have you

Forgotten us

Completely?

Why have you

Forsaken us

These many days?”

Yahweh reigns forever. His throne will endure through all generations. The question is why has he forgotten the Judeans? Why has he forsaken them for so many days? There is a sense of urgency in these questions.

Yahweh is the true God (Jer 10:10-10:10)

“But Yahweh is the true God.

He is the living God.

He is the everlasting king.

At his wrath,

The earth quakes.

At his wrath,

The nations cannot endure

His indignation.”

Jeremiah quickly points out the difference between Yahweh, his God, and all these other false wooden idol gods. Yahweh is the only true living God, an everlasting all powerful king. When he gets angry, the earth quakes. All the various countries could not endure this indignation. Yahweh is clearly not a useless piece of wood like the other idol gods.

Religious hypocrites (Isa 1:13-1:16)

“I cannot endure

Solemn assemblies

With iniquity.

I cannot endure

New moon convocations.

I cannot endure

Sabbath convocations.

My soul hates

Your new moon celebrations.

My soul hates

Your appointed festivals.

They have become a burden to me.

I am weary of bearing them.

When you spread forth your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you.

Even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves!

Make yourselves clean!

Remove the evil

Of your doings

From before my eyes.

Cease to do evil!”

Yahweh via Isaiah continues to reject all convocations and assemblies for the new moon and the various festivals, even for the Sabbath because of their iniquity. What a striking turn of events! The kings and priests loved these assemblies for fulfilling the law in the Torah. Isaiah and Yahweh seem to be calling out the hypocrisy of these worship assemblies where evil iniquitous people gathered for these festivals. Yahweh could not endure them any longer. His soul hated them. He was weary of their burden on him.   He was going to hide his eyes and not listen to their prayers. Then in surprisingly priestly language he talks about the unclean bloody hands that need to be washed. Somehow the idea of clean and unclean was acceptable. However, these worshippers had to change their evil habits. They had to cease to do evil. Maybe, this rebuke against offerings and festivals was not absolute.

The truly wise person (Sir 37:22-37:26)

“If a person is wise

To his own advantage, T

he fruits of his good sense

Will be praiseworthy.

They will be trustworthy.

A wise person

Instructs his own people.

The fruits of his good sense

Will endure.

A wise person

Will have praise heaped upon him.

All those who see him

Will call him happy.

The days of a person’s life

Are numbered.

But the days of Israel

Are without number.

Whoever is wise

Among his people

Will inherit honor.

His name will live forever.”

Sirach now points out who the truly wise person is. The wise ones work to their own advantage. They have good sense that is praiseworthy, trustworthy, and honored. The truly wise ones instruct their own people. The fruits of these happy wise people will endure with praise. Although the days of everyone are numbered and limited, that is not true about Israel since its days are not numbered. So too, the honorable wise person will have his name last forever. This hyperbolic use of forever indicates a long time, rather than eternity.

The power of God (Wis 11:21-11:26)

“It is always in your power

To show great strength.

Who can withstand the might of your arm?

Because the whole world is before you

Like a speck that tips the scales.

It is like a drop of morning dew

That falls upon the ground.

But you are merciful to all.

You can do all things.

You overlook people’s sins.

Thus they may repent.

You love all things that exist.

You detest none of the things

That you have made.

You would not have made anything

If you had hated it.

How would anything have endured,

If you had not willed it?

How would anything not called forth by you

Have been preserved?

You spare all things.

They are yours. O Lord!

You love the living!”

This is like a great prayer to God, who has power and strength. No one is able to withstand the might of his arm. The whole world (ὅλος ὁ κόσμος) is like a speck or a drop of morning dew before him. This is reminiscent of the folk spiritual song He’s got the Whole World in his Hands. God is also merciful to all. He overlooks people’s sins so that man can repent (ἀνθρώπων εἰς μετάνοιαν). He loves (ἀγαπᾷς) all things, but he detests none since he made everything. If God hated anything, it would not endure. If he did not will it, it would not happen. He has preserved all things, since all belongs to the Lord who loves all (πάντων) living things.

The intelligent ones (Prov 18:13-18:17)

“If one gives an answer before hearing,

It is folly and shame.

The human spirit will endure sickness.

But who can bear a broken spirit?

An intelligent mind acquires knowledge.

The ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

A gift opens doors.

Gifts give access to the great.

Whoever first states a case seems right,

Until the other comes,

Until the other cross-examines him.”

The intelligent mind is always acquiring knowledge. The wise ones always have an ear seeking knowledge. Inquiring minds want to know. It is folly and your shame if you give an answer before you hear the question. The human spirit can endure sickness, but a broken spirit is more difficult to bear. A gift will open doors for you, especially to the great ones. If you go to court, your case may seem right until you are cross-examined by somebody else.

The good wife (Prov 12:4-12:4)

“A good wife is the crown of her husband.

But she who brings shame is

Like rottenness in his bones.”

The woman is defined in her relationship to her husband. Being a good wife meant that you were the crown of your husband. Generally women were compared to their husbands for value. The opposite is also true. If she brought shame to herself, it also brought shame to her husband, since he would endure the rottenness of the bad deed in his bones.

The personal lament (Ps 102:23-102:24)

“He has broken my strength in mid-course.

He has shortened my days.

‘O my God!’

I say.

‘Do not take me away,

At the midpoint of my life!

Your years endure

Throughout all generations!”

The psalmist claims that his strength has been broken in mid-life. His days have been shortened. He asked God not to take away his life that was only half lived. He wanted his years to endure just as God has endured from generation to generation.