“‘O that my head were a spring of water!
O that my eyes were a fountain of tears!
Thus I might weep day and night
For the slain of my poor people!
O that I had in the desert
A traveler’s lodging place!
Thus I might leave my people!
Thus I might go away from them!
They are all adulterers.
They are a band of traitors.
They bend their tongue
They have grown strong in the land
Because of falsehood,
Not because of truth.
They proceed from evil to evil.
They do not know me.’
Jeremiah has another oracle of Yahweh that speaks out about his lament over the corruption in Judah. Yahweh wished that he had a head with a spring of water or fountain of tears in his eyes, so that he could weep all day and night for the dead people of Judah. He wished that he had a lodging place in the desert so that he could get away from his poor people. They were all adulterers and traitors. They bent their tongues like bows with all their falsehood, instead of truth. They simply went from one evil to another evil. They did not even know Yahweh. It was a terrible scene. There is a slight discrepancy of the verse numbers since this first verse in the Jerusalem Bible is the last of the preceding chapter. However, I will follow the Revised Standard edition numbering for this chapter.
“Therefore hear the word of Yahweh!
You rule this people in Jerusalem!
Because you have said.
‘We have made
A covenant with death.
We have an agreement with Sheol.
When the overwhelming scourge
It will not come to us.
We have made lies our refuge.
We have taken shelter in falsehood.’”
Isaiah wanted the scoffers who ruled Jerusalem to listen to the word of Yahweh. However, these arrogant rulers who had given up on Yahweh responded that they had a covenant with death, perhaps with Egypt against Assyria. They had an agreement with Sheol, the underworld afterlife place. They would be safe because of their deal with death. They were going to rely on lies and falsehood as their refuge and shelter.
“Woe to you
Who drag iniquity along
With cords of falsehood.
Woe to you
Who draw sin along
With cart ropes.
Woe to you
‘Let him make haste.
Let him speed his work.
Thus we may see it.
Let the plan of the Holy One of Israel
Hasten to fulfillment.
Thus we may know it!’”
Isaiah then takes on those who mock God with false allegations. They operate with cords of falsehood and sins like cart ropes. They pretend to want to see the work of Yahweh, the Most High God of Israel as soon as possible. They claim they want to know and see it soon. In fact, all they want to do is to continue in their sinful ways.
“The senseless have vain hopes.
The senseless have false hopes.
Dreams give wings to fools.
As one who catches at a shadow,
As one who pursues the wind,
So is anyone who believes in dreams.
What is seen in dreams
Is but a reflection.
It is like a face
Looking at itself.
From an unclean thing
What can be clean?
From something false,
What can be true?
Divinations are unreal.
Omens are unreal.
Dreams are unreal.
Like a woman in labor,
The mind has fantasies.
Unless they are by intervention
From the Most High,
Pay no attention to them.
Dreams have deceived many.
Those who put their hope in them
Without such deceptions,
The law will be fulfilled.
Wisdom is complete
In the mouth of the faithful.”
Sirach takes on the role of dreams. The dreams of Joseph in Egypt played a major role in the Genesis story. However, Sirach seems to point holes in theory of dreams. He believes that the dreams of the senseless fools are in vain. They give false hope to these fools. They are like trying to catch a shadow or a gust of wind as they easily disappear. A dream is nothing more than a reflection of yourself. Your dreams are nothing more than looking at yourself. How can anything good or clean come from an unclean person? No truth can come from falsehood. Dreams are like unreal divinations and omens. They are like the fantasies of a woman in labor. Unless they are sent from the Most High God, dreams should be disregarded. Many people have been deceived by dreams. Sirach believes that the law and wisdom are more important than dreams.
“Princes persecute me without cause.
But my heart stands in awe of your words.
I rejoice at your word,
Like one who finds great spoil.
I hate falsehood.
I abhor falsehood.
But I love your law.
Seven times a day,
I praise you
For your righteous ordinances.
Those who love your law have great peace.
Nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for your salvation.
I fulfill your commandments.
My soul keeps your decrees.
I love them exceedingly.
I keep your precepts.
I keep your decrees.
All my ways are before you.”
Princes persecute the psalmist without cause, but his heart is in awe of Yahweh. He rejoiced at the word of Yahweh like one who had found great spoil after a victory. He loved the law. He hated and abhorred falsehood. He prayed 7 times a day, much like the later Christian choral prayers. He praised God for his righteous ordinances. He wanted peace for those who loved the law because nothing could make them stumble. He fulfilled the commandments of Yahweh. He kept his commandments, decrees, and precepts. Everything was laid out for Yahweh to see. So ends this section on the twenty-first consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Shin.
“If I have walked with falsehood,
If my foot has hastened to deceit,
Let me be weighed in a just balance!
Let God know my integrity!
If my step has turned aside from the way,
If my heart has followed my eyes,
If any spot has clung to my hands,
Then let me sow!
Let another eat!
Let what grows for me be rooted out!”
The first question is falsehood. Has Job lied? Has Job cheated people? Job maintained that he had not deceived people. He had always used a just weight scale in his transactions. God knew his integrity. He had never turned from God’s way. If he has done anything wrong, let him be the sower and another person can eat of his crop. If he has been false and deceitful, whatever he has planted and grown should be rooted out.
“Job again took up his discourse.
‘As God lives,
He has taken away my right.
The Almighty Shaddai has made my soul bitter.
As long as my breath is in me,
As long as the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
My lips will not speak falsehood.
My tongue will not utter deceit.
Far be it from me to say that you are right.
Until I die,
I will not put away my integrity from me.
I hold fast to my righteousness.
I will not let it go.
My heart does not reproach me for any of my days.”
Once again, Job proclaimed his innocence before God. This is a discourse, a very solemn statement, like an oath. He maintained that the almighty Shaddai had made his soul bitter. He seemed to be talking to the living God. He said that as long as he was breathing and the spirit of God was in his nose, he would not speak falsehood or utter deceitful things. “Far be it from me” is a kind of oath. He would maintain his integrity and righteousness until his death. This righteousness often appears to be a form of self-righteousness.