Anarchy at Jerusalem (Isa 3:4-3:8)

“I will make boys

Their princes.

Babes shall rule

Over them.

The people will be oppressed.

Everyone will oppress another person.

Everyone will oppress his neighbor.

The youth will be insolent

To the elders.

The base fellows will be insolent

To the honorable ones.

Someone will even seize a relative,

A member of their clan.

Saying.

‘You have a cloak.

You shall be our leader.

This heap of ruins

Shall be under your rule.’

But the other will cry out.

Saying.

‘I will not be a healer.

In my house,

There is

Neither bread

Nor cloak.

You shall not make me

Leader of the people.’

Jerusalem has stumbled.

Judah has fallen.

Because their speech was

Against Yahweh.

Their deeds were

Against Yahweh.

They defied his glorious presence.”

Jerusalem will become a place of anarchy. Boys will be princes. Babies will be rulers. Everyone will oppress their neighbors with violence and civil unrest. The young people will not listen to their elders. Low life people will be insolent to the honorable ones. They will try to make leaders from their own clans. However, no one will want to be a leader because they do not have anything to eat or wear. Jerusalem has stumbled.  Judah has fallen. This is obviously the time of the Exile. All this has happened because their speech and deeds were against Yahweh. They defied his glorious presence among them.

The repayment of the Lord (Sir 35:22-35:26)

“The Lord will not delay.

Like a warrior,

He will not be patient.

He will crush

The loins of the unmerciful.

He repays vengeance

On the nations.

He will destroy

The multitude of the insolent.

He breaks

The scepters of the unrighteous.

He will repay mortals

According to their deeds.

He will repay the works of all

According to their thoughts.

He will judge

The case of his people.

He will make them rejoice

In his mercy.

His mercy is as welcome

In time of distress,

As clouds of rain

In time of drought.”

According to Sirach, the Lord will not delay in bringing about justice. He will be like a warrior without patience. He will crush the backs of the unmerciful ones. He will take vengeance on the various countries. He will destroy the multitude of insolent people as he will break the scepters of the unrighteous. He will repay mortals according to their deeds and thoughts. He will judge his people so that they will rejoice in his mercy that is like a cloud of rain during a drought. The vengeance of God will come upon the earth.

The use of wine (Sir 31:25-31:31)

“Do not try to prove your strength

By drinking wine.

Wine has destroyed many people.

As the furnace tests

The work of the smith,

So wine tests hearts

When the insolent quarrel.

Wine is very life to human beings,

If you drink it in moderation.

What is life to one

Who is without wine?

It has been created

To make people happy.

Wine drunk at the proper time,

Is rejoicing to the heart.

Wine drunk in moderation

Brings gladness to the soul.

Wine drunk to excess

Leads to bitterness of spirit,

Leads to quarrels,

Leads to stumbling.

Drunkenness increases

The anger of a fool

To his own hurt.

It reduces his strength.

It adds wounds.

Do not reprove your neighbor

At a banquet of wine.

Do not despise him

In his merrymaking.

Speak no word of reproach to him.

Do not distress him

By making demands of him.”

Sirach warns that you should not try to show how strong you are by drinking wine since it has destroyed many people. Just as a furnace tests the iron work of a blacksmith, so too wine tests insolent people when they quarrel. However, wine does have a good purpose. It is life itself when taken in moderation. Without wine, our lives would not be happy. Wine at the proper time and in moderation rejoices and gladdens the heart and the soul. On the other hand, over indulging in wine can lead to a bitter spirit, quarrels, and stumbling around. The fool who drinks excessively increases his own anger to his own detriment. Drunkards lose their strength and sometimes get wounded. If you are at a banquet with wine, do not pick an argument with your neighbor. Do not dislike him for having a good time. Do not criticize him or ask him for anything. It is not the right time.

Pride (Sir 10:6-10:13)

“Do not get angry

With your neighbor

For every injury!

Do not resort to acts of insolence!

Arrogance is hateful to the Lord.

Arrogance is hateful to mortals.

Injustice is outrageous to both also.

Sovereignty passes

From nation to nation.

This happens

On account of injustice,

On account of insolence,

On account of wealth.

How can dust be proud?

How can ashes be proud?

Even in life,

The human body decays.

A long illness baffles the physician.

The king of today

Will die tomorrow.

When one is dead,

He inherits

Maggots,

Vermin,

And worms.

The beginning of human pride

Is to forsake the Lord.

The heart has withdrawn

From its Maker.

The beginning of pride

Is sin.

The one who clings to it

Pours out abominations.”

You should not get mad with your neighbor over any perceived injuries. Do not become insolent! Arrogance is hateful to God and humans. Injustice is outrageous to the Lord and your neighbor. Sovereignty passes from one country to another because of injustice, insolence, and wealth. This is not a pretty picture. How can humans made of dust and ashes be proud? Their body will decay no matter what. Sometimes it is a baffling long illness that even physicians do not know how to cure. Even the king of today will be dead and gone tomorrow. When you die, the maggots, the vermin, and the worms will take over your body. Pride starts when you give up on the Lord and Creator. Sin is the beginning of pride. If you cling to it, there will be abominations all over the place.

Keeping the law of Yahweh (Ps 19:11-19:13)

“Moreover by the law,

Your servant is warned.

In keeping the law,

There is a great reward.

But who can discern his errors?

Clear me from hidden faults!

Keep back your servant also from the insolent!

Do not let them have dominion over me!

Then I shall be blameless.

I shall be innocent of a great transgression.”

This then is prayer to follow the law of Yahweh. There is a reward for following the law of Yahweh. How can anyone discern their errors? How can they be clear from hidden faults? They have to stay away from the insolent ones. David does not want to let them have power over him. He wants to be blameless and innocent. Without the help of Yahweh it is not possible to follow the law.

The prayer to God over the fire (2 Macc 1:24-1:29)

“The prayer was to this effect,

‘O Lord, Lord God,

Creator of all things,

You are awe-inspiring.

You are strong.

You are just.

You are merciful.

You alone are king.

You are kind.

You alone are bountiful.

You alone are just.

You are almighty.

You are eternal.

You rescue Israel from every evil.

You chose our ancestors.

You consecrated them.

Accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel!

Preserve your portion!

Make it holy!

Gather together our scattered people!

Set free those who are slaves among the gentiles!

Look on those who are rejected and despised!

Let the gentiles know that you are our God!

Punish those who oppress!

Punish those who are insolent with pride!

Plant your people in your holy place,

As Moses promised.’”

This is a beautiful prayer that emphasizes a theology of the attributes of God. God is a king, awe-inspiring, strong, just, merciful, kind, bountiful, almighty, and eternal. Then there was the turn to how God had rescued Israel and helped their consecrated ancestors. They want their sacrifice made holy. They wanted their scattered people to return, especially from the gentile slavery. They wanted God to look kindly on the rejected, the despised, and the oppressed. However, God should punish the oppressors and the prideful insolent people. Finally they wanted their people be brought back to the holy place as Moses had promised. Jerusalem was the holy place as they were scattered among the hostile gentiles.

Preparing for the battle of Beth-horon (1 Macc 3:16-3:22)

“When Seron approached the ascent of Beth-horon, Judas went out to meet him with a small company. But when they saw the army coming to meet them, they said to Judas.

‘How can we?

Few as we are,

How can we fight against so great and so strong a multitude?

We are faint,

We have eaten nothing today.’

Judas replied.

‘It is easy for many to be hemmed in by a few,

In the sight of heaven,

There is no difference between saving by many or by few.

It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends,

But strength comes from heaven.

They come against us in great insolence and lawlessness.

They want to destroy us, our wives, and our children.

They want to despoil us.

However, we fight for our lives and our laws.

He himself will crush them before us.

As for you,

Do not be afraid of them.’”

This is like a pep talk before the battle. Beth-horon was in the northwest corner of the Benjamin territory that might have close to the town of Modein since it was about 12 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Judas’ men said that they were too few to fight a battle against so many Syrian troops. They said that they were hungry and faint. Judas Maccabeus responded that there was no difference between a big army and a small army because strength comes from heaven. They were insolent and lawless. They wanted to destroy us, our wives, and our children. They wanted to get rid of us. However, we fight for our lives and our laws. They should not be afraid because the God of heaven in on their side.