Forgetfulness and no harvest (Isa 17:10-17:11)

“You have forgotten

The God of your salvation.

You have not remembered

The rock of your refuge.

Though you plant pleasant plants,

The harvest will flee away.

Even though you set out slips

Of an alien god,

The harvest will flee away.

Although you make them grow

On the day that you plant them,

The harvest will flee away.

Even though you make them blossom

In the morning that you sow them,

The harvest will flee away.

In a day of grief,

In a day of incurable pain,

The harvest will flee away.”

Yahweh, via Isaiah, reminds the northern Israelites that they have forgotten about their saving God, the rock of their lives. Thus when they plant pleasant plants, they will not come to harvest them because they put in the seeds of foreign gods. They make them grow on the day that they planted them, but they will see them harvested. These flowers seem to blossom in the morning. However, in the day of grief and incurable pain there will be no harvest. In other words, their forgetfulness of God has led to this planting that will not have any good result.

Please God (Eccl 2:24-2:26)

“There is nothing better for mortals

Than to eat and drink.

They should find enjoyment in their toil.

This also,

I saw,

Is from the hand of God.

Apart from him,

Who can eat?

Who can have enjoyment?

To the one who pleases him,

God gives wisdom.

God gives knowledge.

God gives joy.

However to the sinner,

He gives the work of gathering.

He gives the work of heaping.

He only gives to one who pleases God.

This also is vanity.

This is a chasing after wind.”

Qoheleth continues his comments with the philosophical argument of Epicurus (341-270 BCE). You should enjoy your life in eating, drinking, and working. Qoheleth claims that this is from the hand of God. How can anything happen without God? God is the one who gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy. This was the typical idea that the sinner worked and gathered but was not pleasing to God. Therefore the poor sinner did not get rich. The poor person gave his harvest over to those who pleased God. Once again, this is vanity and like chasing the wind for the poor person.

Useless actions (Prov 26:1-26:3)

“Like snow in summer,

Like rain in harvest,

So honor is not fitting for a fool.

Like a sparrow in it’s flitting,

Like a swallow in its flying,

An undeserved curse goes nowhere.

Thus we have

A whip for the horse,

A bridle for the donkey,

A rod for the back of fools.”

Honor should not be given to fools because it is out of place, like snow in summer or rain at harvest time. Just like a sparrow or a swallow flitting and flying, an undeserved curse is useless. What works is a whip for a horse, a bridle for a donkey, and a whip for the back of fools. Fools are just slightly more valuable and tolerable than horses and donkeys.

The importance of words (Prov 25:11-25:13)

“A word fitly spoken

Is like apples of gold

In a setting of silver.

Like a gold ring,

Like an ornament of gold,

Is a wise rebuke to a listening ear.

Like the cold of snow,

In the time of harvest,

Are faithful messengers

To those who send them.

They refresh the spirit of their masters.”

A fit correct word spoken at the right time is like a golden setting in silver, like a golden ring, or an ornament of gold. In other words, to say the right word at the right time is important. This can be like a wise rebuke to someone who will take it to heart, if they are listening. The right word sent at the right time is like a cold snow at harvest time or like a faithful messenger. Both refresh the spirit of the one working in the field or the one expecting some news.

Be careful (Prov 22:5-22:8)

“Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse.

The cautious will keep far from them.

Train children in the right way.

Then when they are old,

They will not stray.

The rich rule over the poor.

The borrower is the slave of the lender.

Whoever sows injustice

Will reap calamity,

The rod of anger will fail.”

The way of the perverse is full of thorns and snares, so keep away from them. If you train children correctly, they will not stray when they are old. The rich will rule over the poor. The borrower becomes the slave of the lender. If you sow injustice, you will harvest calamity. Beatings in anger will fail.

Strife (Prov 20:3-20:6)

“It is honorable to refrain from strife.

But every fool is quick to quarrel.

The lazy person does not plow in the autumn season.

Harvest comes.

There is nothing to be found.

The purposes in the human mind are like deep water.

But the intelligent will draw them out.

Many proclaim themselves loyal.

But who can find one worthy of trust?”

The honorable people stay away from arguments and strife, but the fools are quick to start an argument. The lazy person does not plow in the correct season so that when harvest comes, they have nothing to harvest. The human mind is deep, but the intelligent people can draw out the purposes of humans. Many people maintain that they are loyal, but it is hard to find a trustworthy person.

Generosity (Prov 11:24-11:28)

“Some give freely.

Yet they grow all the richer.

Others withhold what is due.

But they only suffer want.

A generous person will be enriched.

One who gives water will get water.

The people curse those who hold back grain.

But a blessing is on the head of those who sell it.

Whoever diligently seeks good things seeks favor.

But evil comes to the one who searches for it.

Those who trust in their riches will wither.

But the righteous will flourish like green leaves.”

There is a need for generosity. Those people who give freely usually grow richer. Those who withhold what is due only suffer more wanting of things. A generous person will be enriched. If you give water, you will get water. If you hold back your grain, hoping for a higher price, you will be cursed. However, you will be blessed if you sell it to others in the normal course of the harvest. If you are seeking good things, you will be favored. If you are looking for evil, you will find it. If you trust in your wealth, it will wither away on you. However, if you are righteous, you will flourish like green leaves on a tree.