The response of Yahweh (Jer 15:11-15:12)

“Yahweh said.

‘Surely I have intervened

In your life for good.

Surely I imposed enemies on you!

I intervened with you

In a time of trouble.

I intervened with you

In a time of distress.

Can iron with bronze

Break iron from the north?’”

Yahweh reminds Jeremiah that he has had a good life. However, Yahweh has given him enemies, yet he was there in his times of trouble and distress. Then Yahweh returned to the theme of how to defeat the invaders from the north. Would a combination of iron and bronze be enough to break the coming iron from the north? Only time will tell.

Yahweh’s rejection (Jer 6:27-6:30)

“I have made you a tester.

You are a refiner among my people.

Thus you may know their ways.

You may test their ways.

They are all stubbornly rebellious.

They go about with slanders.

They are bronze.

They are iron.

All of them act corruptly.

The bellows blow fiercely.

The lead is consumed by the fire.

In vain,

The refining goes on.

The wicked are not removed.

They are called

‘Rejected silver.’

Yahweh has rejected them.”

Jeremiah was to be the tester for Yahweh. He was going to test the faithfulness of the people. Thus there is a comparison with testing metals. Jeremiah found that they were all rebellious corrupt slanderous people. He was going to test them as if they were iron or bronze. The lead was consumed in the fire but no precious metals were to be found. The wicked were not removed, so that they came up as rejected silver. Thus Yahweh has rejected these wicked people.

More beautiful than ever (Isa 60:17-60:18)

“Instead of bronze

I will bring gold.

Instead of iron,

I will bring silver.

Instead of wood,

I will bring bronze.

Instead of stones,

I will bring iron.

I will appoint peace

As your overseer.

I will appoint righteousness

As your taskmaster.

Violence shall no more

Be heard in your land.

Devastation shall no more

Be within your borders.

Destruction shall no more

Be within your borders.

You shall call your walls

Salvation.

You shall call your gates

Praise.”

The new Temple will be more beautiful than the older destroyed Temple of King Solomon, if that is possible. Instead of bronze, there will be gold. Instead of iron, there will be silver. In the place of wood, there will be bronze. In the place of stones, there will be iron. Peace and righteousness will be the overseer and taskmaster for this project. There will be no more violence, devastation, or destruction within its borders. The walls will be called salvation and the gates praise. This will be some great place.

The blessings of the Lord (Sir 39:22-39:27)

“His blessing covers the dry land

Like a river.

His blessing drenches it

Like a flood.

But his wrath drives out

The nations.

He has turned a watered land

Into salt.

To the faithful,

His ways are straight.

But they are full of pitfalls

For the wicked.

From the beginning,

Good things were created

For the good.

But for the sinners,

Bad things.

The basic necessities of human life are

Water,

Fire,

Iron,

Salt,

Wheat flour,

Milk,

Honey,

The blood of the grape,

Oil,

And clothing.

All these are good

For the godly.

But for the sinners,

They turn into evils.”

Sirach remarks that the Lord’s blessing is a like a river on dry land or a drenching flood. However, he drives out countries with his wrath, as he has turned watered land into salt. The ways of the faithful are straight, but the wicked have all kinds of obstacles that they fall into. God created the good things, but the sinners get bad things. Then Sirach explained the basic necessities of life. I wonder if we would name all the same stuff. He had water, fire, iron, salt, wheat flour, milk, honey, grapes, oil, and clothing. These were good for the godly but evil for the sinners. In other words, you attitude towards them made them either good or bad.

The artisans (Sir 38:27-38:30)

“Every master artisan

Labors by night

As well as by day.

Those who cut the signets of seals,

Each is diligent

In making a great variety.

They set their heart

On painting a lifelike image.

They are careful

To finish their work.

The smith sits by the anvil.

He is intent on his iron-work.

The breath of the fire

Melts his flesh.

He struggles

With the heat of the furnace.

The sound of the hammer

Deafens his ears.

His eyes are

On the pattern of the object.

He sets his heart

On finishing his handiwork.

He is careful

To complete its decoration.

The potter sits at his work.

He turns the wheel

With his feet.

He is always deeply concerned

Over his products.

He produces them in quantity.

He moulds the clay with his arm.

He makes it pliable with his feet.

He sets his heart

To finish the glazing,

He takes care

In firing the kiln furnace.”

Sirach then explained in detail about the various skilled artists who work day and night to finish their creative works. First, there were those who made the various colorful painted seals as lifelike as possible. Then there were the blacksmiths who worked in iron with a hammer, anvil, and a hot furnace that affected their hands, ears, and eyes. Finally, there was the potter who made lots of different products. He molded the clay with his hands and feet. He finished it off by glazing it in the kiln furnace. All these artisans worked diligently until they completed their products.

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.

How a carpenter makes false idols (Wis 13:11-13:16)

“A skilled woodcutter

May saw down a tree

That is easy to handle.

He skillfully strips off all its bark.

Then with pleasing workmanship

He makes a useful vessel

That serves life’s needs.

He burns the castoff pieces of his work.

Thus he prepares his food.

He eats his fill.

But he takes a castoff piece

From among them,

That is useful for nothing,

A crooked stick,

Full of knots.

He carves with care in his leisure.

He shapes it with skill gained in idleness.

He forms it in the likeness of a human being.

He makes it like some worthless animal.

He gives it a coat of red paint.

He colors its surface red.

He covers every blemish in it with paint.

Then he makes a suitable niche for it.

He sets it in the wall.

He fastens it there with iron.

He takes thought for it.

Thus it may not fall.

Because he knows

That it cannot help itself.

It is only an image.

It has need of help.”

This is a satirical description of how these false images were made by a skilled woodcutter or carpenter. Obviously this carpenter makes some useful vessels for eating and other purposes. He takes a tree and strips the bark. He then burns the left over wood for cooking. However, he may take some of this useless crooked knotted wood and carve some images in his spare time. He will probably make an image of a human (εἰκόνι ἀνθρώπου) or an animal. Then he will paint it red to cover all the blemishes. After that, he will fasten it with iron on a wall niche in an area so that it will not fall off. He knows that his carved image needs help to sit on a wall. Clearly there is nothing divine about this process or the resulting useless image (εἰκὼν).

Good consequences (Prov 27:17-27:19)

“Iron sharpens iron.

One person sharpens the wits of another.

Anyone who tends a fig tree

Will eat its fruit.

Anyone who takes care of a master

Will be honored.

Just as water reflects the face,

So one human heart reflects another.”

It takes iron to sharpen iron. You can help another person to become sharp and witty. If you take care of a fig tree, you can eat its fruit. If you take care of a master, you will be honored. Just as water reflects your face, so the human heart can reflect another person. Human interaction has some very good consequences on others.

It is hard to kill the Leviathan (Job 41:25-41:29)

“When it raises itself up

The gods are afraid;

At the crashing they are beside themselves.

Although the sword reaches it,

It does not avail.

Although the spear reaches it,

It does not avail.

Although the dart reaches it,

It does not avail.

Although the javelin reaches it,

It does not avail.

It counts iron as straw.

It counts bronze as rotten wood.

The arrow cannot make it flee.

Sling stones are turned to chaff.

Clubs are counted as chaff.

It laughs at the rattle of javelins.”

Even the gods are afraid of the Leviathan. No matter what you use, you cannot kill the Leviathan. The sword, the spear, the dart, and the javelin are useless against it. Iron is like straw, while bronze is like rotten wood. Arrows have no effect. Stones and clubs are turned into useless dried out grain. The Leviathan laughs at spears and javelins.

An ode to miners (Job 28:1-28:12)

“Surely there is a mine for silver.

There is a place for gold to be refined.

Iron is taken out of the earth.

Copper is smelted from ore.

Miners put an end to darkness.

They search out to the farthest bound.

They search for the ore in gloom and deep darkness.

They open shafts in a valley away from human habitation.

They are forgotten by travelers.

They sway suspended.

They are remote from people.

As for the earth,

Out of it comes bread.

But underneath it is turned up as by fire.

Its stones are the place of sapphires.

Its dust contains gold.”

Here is a hymn to wisdom. There is no indication of any kind of dialogue or assignment to any person. This is then an insertion of the biblical author or the thought of Job as interpreted by the biblical author. You can explain away many things by showing where they come from. This is like a miner’s prayer. The author points out that you can mine for gold and silver. You can take the iron and copper ore and smelt it. These miners open up shafts in the valley. They dig holes where humans do not live. They are forgotten by travelers, as they go beneath the earth to find sapphires and gold dust. It really is an ode to miners and the work they do. Obviously mining was important over 2500 years ago, although we have sometimes forgotten that.