“Through negligent sloth
The roof sinks in.
Through negligent indolence
The house leaks.
Feasts are made for laughter.
Wine gladdens life.
Money meets every need.
Do not curse the king,
Even in your thoughts.
Do not curse the rich,
Even in your bedchamber.
A bird of the air
May carry your voice.
Some winged creature tells the matter.”
Qoheleth reminds us that if we negligent and lazy, the roof will sink in and our house will leak. In an interesting comment on life, he says that feasts were made for laughter. Wine adds gladness to our lives, just as money meets every need, or more or less solves all problems. Then he reminded people to be careful about their words and thoughts. Do not even think about cursing the king. Don’t say anything about the rich even in your bedroom. The reason is that a little bird may carry you voice to someone who might not like what you are thinking or saying. The same is true for some winged creature who might reveal what you were saying and thinking.
“A good name is better
Than precious ointment.
The day of death is better
Than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting.
This is the end of everyone.
The living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better
By sadness of countenance,
The heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise
Is in the house of mourning.
But the heart of fools is
In the house of mirth.
It is better for a man
To hear the rebuke of the wise
Than to hear the song of fools.
Like the crackling of thorns under a pot
So is the laughter of fools.
This also is vanity.
Surely oppression makes the wise foolish.
A bribe corrupts the heart.”
Qoheleth presents a reflection on life and death, like the modern philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). With his phrase Sein zum Tode, from his book Being and Time, Heidegger meant that all human beings were destined to die. It is our purpose in life to die. Therefore we must live our life now in authenticity. Qoheleth starts off by saying how important a good name is, more prized than precious ointment. Also the day of death is more important than the day of your birth. It is better to mourn than to feast. As usual, he points out that everyone will die, so that the living must be aware of that. Sorrow was better than laughter, rather than the other way around. The heart was made glad through a sad face. The truly wise mourn, while the fools live a life of mirth. Listen to the criticisms of the wise rather than the songs of fools. Foolish laughter is like burning thorns crackling on a fire since it is pure vanity and useless. Oppression makes us wiser, but bribes corrupt the heart.
A song of ascents
“When Yahweh restored the fortunes of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter.
Our tongue was filled with shouts of joy.
Then it was said among the nations.
‘Yahweh has done great things for them.’
Yahweh has done great things for us.
Psalm 126 is another of these short pilgrimage songs or psalms of ascent. Once again, it is a short prayer for deliverance at the time of the return from captivity. When the Israelites under Ezra were restored to Jerusalem and Mount Zion, it was like a dream come true. Their mouths and tongues were filled with laughter and joy. Then the various countries said that Yahweh had done great things for them. The Israelites realized that Yahweh had done great things for them so that they rejoiced.
God will not reject a blameless person.
He will not take the hand of evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter.
He will fill your lips with shouting.
Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
The tent of the wicked will be no more.”
Bildad reminded Job that God never rejects a blameless person. He never takes the hand of the evil doer. The blameless one will be filled with laughter and shouting. Anyone who hates will be clothed in shame. The tents of the wicked will disappear.
“Yahweh dealt with Sarah as he had said, and Yahweh did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son, whom Sarah bore him. Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me. Everyone who hears will laugh with me.’ She said, ‘Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’”
Back to the main event, the birth of Isaac. Was this a miraculous birth? Now Yahweh dealt with Sarah so that she conceived and bore Abraham, at age 100, a son named Isaac, which refers to laughter. Isaac was circumcised when he was eight days old. Sarah said that everyone will now laugh with her because she has borne a child in her old age of 90.