The prophecy about parables (Mt 13:35-13:35)

“This was to fulfill

What had been spoken

By the prophet.

‘I will open my mouth

To speak in parables.

I will proclaim

What has been hidden

From the foundation

Of the world.’”

 

ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος Ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου, ἐρεύξομαι κεκρυμμένα ἀπὸ καταβολῆς.

 

Matthew uniquely cited this prophecy from the Psalms, Psalm 78:2, where the psalmist Asaph explained the teachings from long ago.  Jesus was going to open his mouth in parables about the old-fashioned sayings, like the wisdom writers.  These sayings had been passed on from his ancestors, showing the great deeds of Yahweh that he had done for Israel.  Jesus, via Matthew, justified or fulfilled (ὅπως πληρωθῇ) what the prophet Asaph in the psalms had said (τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος) about the use of parables.  He would open his mouth in parables (Ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου) to proclaim the hidden mysteries from the foundations of the earth (ἐρεύξομαι κεκρυμμένα ἀπὸ καταβολῆς).  The parables were a way of conveying wisdom, with only the initiated able to understand them.

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The power of foreign gods (Dan 11:38-11:39)

“He shall honor

The god of fortresses,

Instead of these,

A god whom his ancestors

Did not know.

He shall honor

With gold,

With silver,

With precious stones,

With costly gifts.

He shall deal

With the strongest fortresses

By the help

Of a foreign god.

Those who acknowledge him,

He shall make more wealthy.

He shall appoint them

As rulers over many.

He shall divide

The land

For a price.”

Gabriel went on to tell Daniel about how King Antiochus IV worshiped foreign gods, probably the Greek gods of Jupiter at Olympus, not the Syrian gods of his ancestors. Apparently, King Antiochus IV had more respect for these Greek gods. Jupiter was a god of strength. His ancestors knew nothing about these Greek gods. However, he honored them with gold, silver, precious stones, and costly gifts. He relied on these foreign gods to maintain his stronghold positions. King Antiochus made people wealthy, if they agreed with him. In fact, he may have practiced a form of bribery, by dividing up the land for a price.

The future death of King Zedekiah (Jer 34:4-34:5)

“Yet hear

The word of Yahweh!

O King Zedekiah

Of Judah!

Thus says Yahweh

Concerning you.

‘You shall not die

By the sword.

You shall die in peace.

As spices were burned

For your ancestors,

The earlier kings

Who preceded you,

So they will

Burn spices for you.

They will

Lament for you,

Saying.

‘Alas!

Lord!’

I have spoken the word.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh has Jeremiah tell King Zedekiah that he will not die by the sword or on the battlefield. Instead the king would die in peace. They would have a nice funeral for him. They would burn spices for him, as they had done to the honor the former kings, his ancestors. They had not done this for his brother King Jehoiakim or King Eliakim (609-598 BCE). However, they would lament the death of King Zedekiah as if he were a good king. Thus he would have a glorious happy death.

Prayer to end the desolation (Isa 64:10-64:12)

“Your holy cities

Have become a wilderness.

Zion has become a wilderness.

Jerusalem has become desolation.

Our holy beautiful house,

Where our ancestors praised you,

Has been burned by fire.

All our pleasant places

Have become ruins.

After all this,

Will you restrain yourself?

O Yahweh!

Will you keep silent?

Will you punish us so severely?”

This prophet wanted an end to the desolation in Jerusalem. The holy city had become a wilderness. Zion or Jerusalem was desolate. The beautiful house that his ancestors had worshipped in had been burned by fire, so that it lay in ruins with many other pleasant places. He wanted Yahweh to act and not be silent. Why had he punished them so severely?

 

The various kinds of famous holy men (Sir 44:3-44:6)

“There were those

Who ruled

In their kingdoms.

Others made a name

For themselves

By their valor.

There were those

Who gave counsel

Because they were intelligent.

There were those

Who spoke in prophetic oracles.

There were those

Who led the people

By their counsels.

They led the people

With their knowledge

Of the people’s lore.

They were wise

In their words of instruction.

There were those

Who composed musical tunes.

There were those

Who put verses in writing.

There were rich men

Endowed with resources,

Living peaceably in their homes.”

Sirach then listed the various kinds of positions or actions of his ancestors that he deemed worthy of mention. First, there were the rulers, kings, and warriors, as if they were all holy and famous. Then there were the intelligent counselors to the kings. Next came those with prophetic oracles, but they do not seem to stand out. Then there is a group that led the people, while others kept track of the people’s lore. These might be the scribes or those who passed on the oral tradition of times past. Next there were the wise teachers or instructors, followed by the musicians who wrote the music and verses for songs. Finally, there were the resourceful rich men.

The plague on the righteous (Wis 18:20-18:25)

“The experience of death

Touched also the righteous.

A plague came upon the multitude

In the desert.

But the wrath did not long continue.

A blameless man was quick

To act as their champion.

He brought forward the shield of his ministry.

He brought forth prayer.

He brought forward propitiation by incense.

He withstood the anger.

He put an end to the disaster.

He showed that he was your servant.

He conquered the wrath

Not by strength of body,

Not by force of arms,

But by his word

He subdued the avenger.

He appealed to the oaths given to our ancestors.

He appealed to the covenants given to our ancestors.

When the dead had already fallen on one another in heaps,

He intervened.

He held back the wrath.

He cut off its way to the living.

On his long robe

The whole world was depicted.

The glories of the ancestors

Were engraved on the four rows of stones.

Your majesty was on the diadem upon his head.

The destroyer yielded to these.

The destroyer feared these.

Merely to test the wrath was enough.”

This section takes part of the Exodus story in chapters 32 and the Numbers presentation in chapter 17 and combines them into one episode. In other words, the righteous (δικαίων) were not free from the wrath of God. A plague came upon them in the desert (ἐν ἐρήμῳ) that nearly killed 15,000 of them because the Israelites had rebelled against Moses and Aaron. However, Moses instructed Aaron to make reparation by prayer (προσευχὴν) and incense. The blameless man was Aaron, and not Moses, but there is no indication of his explicit name here since in the Exodus story Aaron had rebelled also. This blameless man subdued the avenger by his prayerful sacrificial actions. He remembered the oaths and covenants that his ancestors had made. The use of the robe is definitely the Levitical robe of Aaron from Exodus, chapter 28. His lovely robe had 4 rows of stones. He also had a diadem on his head (διαδήματος κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ). Obviously, this is from the time of the settled Israelites, but it was enough to scare off this destroyer. The Israelites learned from this episode.

The call to listen (Ps 78:1-78:4)

A Maskil of Asaph

“O my people!

Give ear to my teaching!

Incline your ears

To the words of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable.

I will utter dark sayings from of old.

These are the things

That we have heard and known.

Our ancestors have told us these things.

We will not hide them from their children.

We will tell them to the coming generation.

These are the glorious deeds of Yahweh,

These show his might.

These are the wonders that he has done.”

Psalm 78 is one of these long didactic psalms that relate the whole history of the Israelite people, like Psalms 105 and 106 as well as Psalms 135 and 136. This psalm is also a maskil of Asaph as the others in this series. We will learn the lessons of Israelite history, with a special emphasis on particular favorite heroes. There is an initial call to listen with care to the teaching of this psalmist, Asaph. He was going to speak in parables like the wisdom writers. These are the stories that were passed on to him by his ancestors. Now he was not going to hide it from the current children and the generations yet to come. All this shows the glorious deeds of Yahweh and his strength in the wonders that he has done for Israel.