The foolish search (Eccl 1:13-1:14)

“I applied my mind

To seek

To search out

By wisdom

All that is done under heaven.

It is an unhappy business

That God has given to human beings

To be busy with.

I saw all the deeds

That are done under the sun.

See!

All is vanity.

All is a chasing after wind.”

Qoheleth applied his mind with wisdom. He wanted to seek and search out everything under the heavens. He wanted an encyclopedic mind, or as we would say a Wikipedia mind. However, he thought that this is an unhappy business that God allows humans to be involved with, the search for knowledge. Notice that throughout this work, God and not Yahweh is used. Qoheleth boasts that he has seen all the deeds that were done under the sun. His response is that it is all in vain. All is vanity, useless, or temporary. Once the wind came, it would be gone. Searching for knowledge was like chasing the wind. You would never catch it

Inheritance (Prov 28:8-28:10)

“Whoever augments his wealth by exorbitant interest

Gathers it for another who is kind to the poor.

When one will not listen to the law

Even one’s prayers are an abomination.

Those who mislead the upright into evil ways

Will fall into the pits of their own making.

But the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.”

If you augment your wealth with high interest rates, the law of retribution will get you, so that someone else will end up with your money. They will give it to the poor people so that your profit will be in vain. When you do not listen to the law, your very prayer will be an abomination. If you mislead the upright into evil ways, you will fall into the pits that you made for others. However, the blameless will have a good inheritance for their family.

Lies (Prov 14:5-14:8)

“A faithful witness does not lie.

But a false witness breathes out lies.

A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain.

But knowledge is easy for one who understands.

Leave the presence of a fool.

There you do not find words of knowledge.

It is the wisdom of the clever

To understand where they go.

But the folly of fools misleads.”

The problem of lying appears often. The faithful witness does not lie. However, the false witnesses breathe out lies without even thinking about it. The scoffer cynic will seek wisdom in vain. Knowledge, on the other hand, is easy for those people who understand what is going on. Stay away from fools because they do not have words of knowledge. The clever ones have wisdom so that they understand where they are going, but the folly of the fools will mislead you down the wrong path.

Yahweh is the source of all (Ps 127:1-127:2)

A song of ascents, of Solomon

“Unless Yahweh builds the house,

Those who build it

Labor in vain.

Unless Yahweh guards the city,

The guard keeps watch in vain.

It is in vain

That you rise up early.

It is in vain

That you go late to rest.

It is in vain

To eat the bread of anxious toil.

He gives sleep to his beloved.”

Psalm 127 is another of these short pilgrimage songs or psalms sung on the way ascending to Jerusalem. However, this one has the name of Solomon since there is a little wisdom saying embedded here about God’s providence. Unless Yahweh builds the house, your work is in vain. Unless Yahweh guards your city, it is in vain to have guards watch it. You should not be anxious for your daily bread. It is in vain to rise up early to work or stay up late at night to work. Yahweh gives sleep to his beloved ones. Do not be anxious for Yahweh is the source of all things.

Why do the evildoers succeed? (Ps 73:10-73:14)

“Therefore the people turn and praise them.

They find no fault in them.                                

They say.

‘How can God know?

Is there knowledge in the Most High?’

Such are the wicked.

They are always at ease.

They increase in riches.

All in vain have I kept my heart clean.

I have washed my hands in innocence.

All day long I have been plagued.

I am punished every morning.”

Asaph, the psalmist warned that people were praising these wicked people. No one seemed to find fault in what they were doing. The people were saying how can God not know about this since he is the most high one. The wicked ones seem to be at ease as they increase their wealth. Asaph maintained that he had kept his heart clean in vain. He had washed his hands in innocence. However, all day long he suffered from illness. He was punished every morning as he woke up.

Bacchides is defeated and leaves (1 Macc 9:65-9:69)

“However, Jonathan left his brother Simon in the town, while he went out into the country. He went with only a few men. He struck down Odomera and his kindred and the people of Phasiron in their tents. Then he began to attack. He went into battle with his forces. Simon and his men sallied out from the town. They set fire to the machines of war. They fought with Bacchides. He was crushed by them. They pressed him very hard. His plan and his expedition had been in vain. So he was greatly enraged at the renegades who had counseled him to come into the country. He killed many of them. Then he decided to depart to his own land.”

Jonathan split up his forces. He left his brother Simon in the town and he went into the countryside with a few men. He attacked and defeated Odomera and Phasiron. Odomera was either an independent wandering chief or an officer of the army of the Syrian General Bacchides. Phasiron was another independent Arab chief. Simon and his group set fire to the war machines of General Bacchides that were set to attack the Jews people. He was defeated but he did not die. There is no indication of how many people he lost, but he was discouraged because his plan and invasion had not worked. Thus General Bacchides decided to kill some of the men who had encouraged him to invade Judea. Then he left in disgust to go back to his own land.

Holofernes chastises Achior (Jdt 6:1-6:4)

“When the disturbance made by the people outside the council died down, Holofernes, the commander of the Assyrian army, said to Achior in the presence of all the foreign contingents.

‘Who are you, Achior?

You are a mercenary of Ephraim.

How can you prophesy among us as you have done today?

How can you tell us not to make war against the people of Israel?

As their God will defend them.

What god is there except Nebuchadnezzar?

He will send his forces and destroy them from the face of the earth.

Their God will not deliver them.

We the king’s servants will destroy them as one man.

They cannot resist the might of our cavalry.

We will overwhelm them.

Their mountains will be drunk with their blood.

Their fields will be full of their dead.

Not even their footprints will survive our attack.

They will utterly perish.

So says King Nebuchadnezzar, lord of the whole earth.

He has spoken.

None of his words shall be in vain.’”

Holofernes was not pleased with the presentation of Achior. He turned on him. Who did he think he was? Achior was just an Ephraim mercenary. Who made him a prophet? There was only one great god, King Nebuchadnezzar. He was sending his forces to destroy the whole earth. The Israelite God could not help the Israelites against this great king. The Assyrians were going to overwhelm the Israelites. In very colorful language, he said that the mountains would get drunk from the Israelite blood. The fields would be fertilized with their bodies. Their footprints would even disappear. The Israelites would be wiped out. King Nebuchadnezzar was the lord of all the earth. Holofernes’ own words would not be in vain. This is a long diatribe against Achior and the Israelites.