The example of the prophet Micah (Jer 26:17-26:19)

“Some of the elders

Of the land

Arose.

They said

To all the assembled people.

‘Micah of Moresheth prophesied

During the days of King Hezekiah

Of Judah.

He said to all the people

Of Judah.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

Zion shall be plowed

As a field. Jerusalem shall become

A heap of ruins.

The mountain of the house

Will be a wooded height.’

Did King Hezekiah

Of Judah,

With all Judah,

Put him to death?

Did he not fear Yahweh?

Did he not entreat

The favor of Yahweh?

Did not Yahweh change

His mind

About the disaster

That he had pronounced

Against them?

But we are about

To bring great disaster

On ourselves.’”

Some of the elders reminded the assembly that at the time of King Hezekiah of Judah (716-687 BCE), about a hundred years previously, that the prophet Micah (737-696 BCE) from Moresheth, in southwestern Judah, had made some disturbing prophecies. Micah was considered one of the Minor Prophets with his own biblical book. During his day, he told King Hezekiah that Judah would be plowed like a field, while Jerusalem would become a ruined heap, as found in chapter 3 of Micah. King Hezekiah did not put him to death. Just the opposite, the king feared Yahweh and asked Yahweh for favors. Thus Yahweh changed his mind at that time, since he did not send a disaster to them. This was right after the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 714 BCE. If they kill Jeremiah, they might bring a great disaster on themselves. Thus a little history lesson helps Jeremiah.

Against idolaters (Isa 57:11-57:13)

“Whom did you dread?

Whom did you fear?

Thus you lied.

You did not remember me.

You did not give me a thought.

Have I not kept silent?

Have I not closed by eyes?

Thus you do not fear me.

I will concede your righteousness.

I will concede your works.

But they will not help you.

When you cry out,

Let your collection of idols

Deliver you!

The wind will carry them off.

A breath will take them away.

Whoever takes refuge in me

Shall possess the land.

They shall inherit

My holy mountain.”

Third Isaiah warns in the first person singular what Yahweh has done with these idolaters. They no longer dreaded or feared Yahweh. They had lied to him. They did not remember or give him any thought. Yahweh had been silent and closed his eyes, so that they no longer feared him. Even though they might have been righteous and done some good things, these actions would no longer help them. If they had a problem, let them call their collection of idols to help them. The wind will carry away their useless idols. On the other hand, anyone who takes refuge in Yahweh will possess the land. They will inherit his holy mountain.

Egypt brings gifts to Yahweh at Jerusalem (Isa 18:7-18:7)

“At that time,

Gifts will be brought

To Yahweh of hosts

From a tall people,

From a smooth people,

From a people

Feared near and far,

From a mighty nation,

From a conquering nation.

The river divides its land.

They will bring it

To Mount Zion,

The place of the name

Of Yahweh of hosts.”

Next Isaiah talks about gifts being brought to Yahweh. Strangely enough, they are from a tall, smooth, and feared people.   They were from the nation that was mighty and conquering, where the rivers divide it. This is exactly the same description of Egypt as at the beginning of this chapter. This mighty nation was going to bring its gifts to Mount Zion, the place for the name of Yahweh. Perhaps this was done because the people of Judah were in alliance with Egypt against the Assyrians at this time, as indicated in 2 Kings, chapter 18-19.

Creation of humans (Sir 17:1-17:7)

“The Lord created human beings

Out of the earth.

He makes them return to it again.

He gave them a fixed number of days.

He granted them authority

Over everything on the earth.

He endowed them with strength

Like his own.

He made them in his own image.

He put the fear of them

In all living beings.

He gave them dominion

Over beasts.

He gave them dominion

Over birds.

They obtained the use of

The five faculties of the Lord.

As sixth,

He distributed to them the gift of mind.

As seventh,

He gave them reason,

The interpreter of one’s faculties.

He gave them a tongue

He gave them eyes.

He gave them ears.

He gave them discretion to think.

He filled them with knowledge.

He filled them with understanding.

He showed them good and evil.”

Sirach used the first chapter of Genesis in his understanding of the created nature world before the creation of humans, who were superior to all creation. These humans came from the earth and would return to it just like all the other living creatures. These humans had a fixed number of days, but they had authority over everything on earth. Nature was for the use of humans. The Lord created them in his own image and with strength like his. Thus humans were a reflection of God. All living things feared humans, since they had dominion over animals and birds. Using the Stoic interpretation of man, he had 5 faculties, but the Lord added 2 more, the mind and reason that were not in other living things. These humans had tongues, eyes, and ears. They also were able to think. Thus they were filled with knowledge and understanding. The Lord showed them both good and evil. Clearly, Sirach believed that humans were the high point of creation.

Reckless speech (Sir 9:17-9:18)

“A work is praised

For the skill of the artisan.

Thus a people’s leader

Is proved wise

By his words.

The loud of mouth

Are feared in their city.

The one who is reckless

In speech

Is hated.”

We praise the work of an artisan craftsman. So too, we praise the wise words of a leader. On the other hand, the loud-mouthed are feared in their city. We hate them for their reckless speech.

The mystery of wisdom (Sir 1:1-1:10)

“All wisdom is from the Lord.

It remains forever with him.

Who can count?

The sand of the sea?

The drops of rain?

The days of eternity?

Who can search them out?

The height of heaven?

The breadth of the earth?

The abyss?

Wisdom?

Wisdom was created before all other things.

Prudent understanding is from eternity.

To whom has it been revealed

The root of wisdom?

Who knows her subtleties?

There is but one who is wise.

He is greatly to be feared.

He is seated upon his throne.

The Lord!

It is he who created her.

He saw her.

He took her measure.

He poured her out upon all his works.

He poured her out upon all the living.

According to his gift,

He lavished her upon

Those who love him.”

This author Sirach starts his work like the beginning of Proverbs with the insistence that all wisdom comes from the Lord. Since this is a Greek translation, the normally tendency was to translate Yahweh or God as Lord, Κυρίος. There is also a minor problem with the numbering of verses. However, no one can count the amount of sand in the sea, the drops of rain, or the days of eternity. No one can tell you how high heaven is, or the width of earth, or the depth of the sea abyss, or about wisdom itself. Wisdom was the first thing created, even though there is no explicit mention of this in Genesis. Understanding is from eternity. No one knows the subtleties of wisdom. The Lord, who sits on his throne, is truly wise and needs to be feared. He created wisdom and poured her out on all his works, including all the living things. Those who love him will receive wisdom.

Teach me (Ps 119:33-119:40)

He

“Yahweh!

Teach me the way of your statutes!

I will observe it to the end.

Give me understanding!

Thus I may keep your law.

I will observe it with my whole heart.

Lead me in the path of your commandments.

I delight in it.

Turn my heart to your decrees.

Turn my heart not to gain.

Turn my eyes from looking at vanities.

Give me life in your ways.

Confirm to your servant your promise.

That is for those who fear you.

Turn away the disgrace that I dread.

Your ordinances are good.

See!

I have longed for your precepts!

In your righteousness give me life!”

This psalmist wanted to be taught by Yahweh. He wanted to learn all about his precepts and statutes. He wanted to observe them to the end of his life. He wanted understanding so that he could observe all his commandments with his whole heart. He wanted to delight in the decrees of Yahweh. He wanted his heart to turn away from self gains or vanities. He wanted to live in the life of Yahweh by following his ways. He wanted God’s promise to be confirmed in him. He wanted to avoid disgrace because he feared God. Yahweh’s ordinances were good so that he longed to follow his precepts in order to live a good life. This section of the fifth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, He, ended here.

Praise Yahweh (Ps 89:5-89:7)

“Let the heavens praise your wonders!

Yahweh!

Your faithfulness is in the assembly of the holy ones.

Who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh?

Who among the heavenly beings is like Yahweh?

Yahweh is a God feared in the council of the holy ones.

Yahweh is great and terrible.

He is above all that is around him.”

The heavens should praise the wonders of Yahweh. His faithfulness can be seen in the assembly of the holy ones. There seems to be some kind of divine heavenly council of the holy ones. Perhaps this is a projection of the assembly of the Temple councils of holy men here on earth. Obviously, no one could compare with Yahweh. He was feared by all. He was great and terrible at the same time above all that surrounded him.

Yahweh brings peace (Ps 85:8-85:9)

“Let me hear what

God Yahweh will speak.

He will speak peace

To his people.

He will speak peace

To his faithful.

He will speak peace

To those who turn to him in their hearts.

Surely his salvation is at hand

For those who fear him.

Thus glory may dwell in our land.”

The psalmist wanted to hear Yahweh speak. He wanted to hear him speak about peace. He wanted Yahweh to bring peace to his people. He wanted Yahweh to bring peace to his faithful ones who turned to him in their hearts. Salvation was at hand for those who feared Yahweh because the glory of God dwelt in the land. This glory of God probably refers to the Temple in Jerusalem.

The power of God (Ps 76:7-76:9)

“But you indeed are awesome!

Who can stand before you?

When once your anger is roused?

From the heavens

You uttered judgment.

The earth feared.

The earth was still.

God rose up to establish judgment.

He wanted to save all the oppressed of the earth.”

Selah

God was awesome! No one could stand before him once his anger was aroused. From heaven he uttered his judgment. Thus the earth feared and was still. God established his judgment. He wanted to save all the oppressed of the earth. This section ends with the musical interlude meditative pause of Selah.