The brood of vipers (Mt 12:34-12:34)

“You brood of vipers!

How can you speak

Good things,

When you are evil?

Out of the abundance

Of the heart,

The mouth speaks.”

 

γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, πῶς δύνασθε ἀγαθὰ λαλεῖν πονηροὶ ὄντες; ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ περισσεύματος τῆς καρδίας τὸ στόμα λαλεῖ.

 

This saying seems to be unique to Matthew.  Earlier in this work, he had John the Baptist call the Pharisees and Sadducees a blood of vipers or snakes in chapter 3:7.  In chapter 23:33, once again he referred to the Scribes and Pharisees as vipers or snakes.  Was he referring to the Pharisees here?  Jesus addressed these people as a brood or offspring of vipers or snakes (γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν).  How could they speak good things (πῶς δύνασθε ἀγαθὰ λαλεῖν), when they were evil (πονηροὶ ὄντες)?  Their mouths spoke (τὸ στόμα λαλεῖ) out of the abundance or overflow of their hearts (ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ περισσεύματος τῆς καρδίας).  They could not fool anyone.  Their evil hearts showed up in their speech, even if they tried to be good.

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The holy way (Isa 35:8-35:10)

“A highway shall be there.

It shall be called the Holy Way.

The unclean shall not travel on it.

But it shall be for God’s people.

No traveler,

Not even fools,

Shall go astray.

No lion shall be there.

No ravenous beast shall come up on it.

They shall not be found there.

But the redeemed shall walk there.

The ransomed of Yahweh shall return.

They shall come to Zion with singing.

Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.

They shall obtain joy.

They shall obtain gladness.

Sorrow shall flee away.

Sighing shall flee away.”

Isaiah has something called the Holy Way highway. On this road there will be no unclean people, only God’s people. However, there is no indication about how they would patrol this road. No one would ever get lost on this highway, not even a fool. Perhaps they must have had good signs on the Holy Way highway. No lions or predatory animals would be on this great holy highway. Only the redeemed and the ransomed of Yahweh would be on this road as they went to Mount Zion singing. There would be joy and gladness with no sorrow or sighing. Obviously, this is about the time of the return after the exile.

The negative power of gold (Sir 31:5-31:7)

“Whoever loves gold

Will not be justified.

Whoever pursues money

Will be led astray by it.

Many have come to ruin

Because of gold.

Their destruction has met them

Face to face.

It is a stumbling block

To those who are avid for it.

Every fool

Will be taken captive by it.”

Sirach warns that those who love gold will not be justified. Pursuing money will simply lead you astray. A lot of lives have been ruined over gold. Destruction has come to many, since gold is a stumbling block for those who seek it. Every fool seems to be captivated by a gold rush or the search for gold. Don’t fall in love with gold since it will take hold of you.

Stay away from stupid people (Sir 22:13-22:15)

“Do not talk much

With a senseless person!

Without sense,

He will despise

Everything about you.

Do not visit

An unintelligent person!

Stay clear of him!

You may have trouble.

You may be spattered

When he shakes himself off.

Avoid him!

Then you will find rest.

You will never be wearied

By his lack of sense.

What is heavier than lead?

What is its name

Except ‘Fool’?

Sand is easier to bear

Than a stupid person.

Salt is easier to bear

Than a stupid person.

A piece of iron is easier to bear

Than a stupid person.”

Sirach warns us to stay away from stupid people. Do not talk to these senseless people. They will despise you for your intelligence. There is a kind of elitism here. He did not want you to visit with unintelligent people. Stay away from them when they shake themselves like animals, because some of their filth might spatter on you. If you stay away from them, you will not be weary of their senseless talk. A fool is heavier to bear than lead. Practically everything is easier to live with than a stupid person. Thus sand, salt, and iron is better than these stupid senseless fools.

Inappropriate speech (Sir 20:18-20:20)

“A slip on the pavement

Is better than a slip of the tongue.

The downfall of the wicked

Will occur just as speedily.

A coarse person is

Like an inappropriate story,

That is continually on the lips

Of the ignorant.

A proverb from a fool’s lips

Will be rejected.

He does not tell it

At the proper time.”

Sirach notes that it is better to slip on the pavement than to have a slip of the tongue. The wicked fall speedily. A crude vulgar person is like an inappropriate story that ignorant people keep telling all the time. Thus a proverb from the lips of a fool will be rejected because he will not tell it at the right time.

Watch how people say things (Prov 29:18-29:20)

“Where there is no prophecy

The people cast off restraint.

But happy are those who keep the law.

By mere words,

Servants are not disciplined.

Even though they understand,

They will not give heed.

Do you see someone who is hasty in speech?

There is more hope for a fool

Than for anyone like that.”

Without the words of a prophet to guide people, they do not have restraint. The happy people are those that follow the law. It is not good enough to discipline servants with words. Even though they understand, they still do not follow. Therefore you may need the rod. Those who speak too fast are worse than a fool.

The selfish misers (Prov 28:21-28:28)

“To show partiality is not good.

Yet for a piece of bread

A person may do wrong.

A miser is in a hurry to get rich.

He does not know that loss is sure to come.

Whoever rebukes a person,

Will afterward find more favor

Than one who flatters with the tongue.

Anyone who robs his father or his mother

While saying,

‘That is no crime,’

Is partner to a thug.

The greedy person stirs up strife.

But whoever trusts in Yahweh

Will be enriched.

Those who trust in their own wits are fools.

But those who walk in wisdom

Come through safely.

Whoever gives to the poor

Will lack nothing.

But one who turns a blind eye

Will get many a curse.

When the wicked prevail,

People go into hiding.

But when the wicked perish,

The righteous increase.”

You should not show partiality in judging others. Sometimes people will do wrong things just for a piece of bread. The misers will hurry to gain wealth but they will lose it in the end. It is better to rebuke people than to flatter them. Anyone who robs his mother or father, and then says that it is not a crime, is already the companion of a common thief. The greedy misers are always stirring up strife and trouble. If you trust in your own wits, you are a fool. Those who walk in wisdom come out safe. If you give to the poor, you will not lack anything. However, if you turn a blind eye to the poor, you will be cursed. Then this section ends with a repeat of what was said earlier in this chapter about when the wicked prevail, then people go into hiding. When the wicked perish, then the righteous increase.