Against the lying prophets (Mic 3:5-3:7)

“Thus says Yahweh

Concerning the prophets,

Who lead my people astray.

‘They cry

‘Peace!’

When they have something

To eat.

But they declare war

Against those who put

Nothing into their mouths.

Therefore,

It shall be night to you,

Without vision.

It shall be darkness to you,

Without revelation.

The sun shall go down

Upon the prophets.

The day shall be black

Over them.

The seers shall be disgraced.

The diviners put to shame.

They shall all cover their lips.

There is no answer

From God.’”

This was another bitter rebuke of the prophetic leaders in Israel and Jacob.  These prophets had led Yahweh’s people astray.  They had cried peace to those who give them something to eat, but they declared war on those who did not give them anything to eat.  Thus, they would live in a night like condition without any vision.  There would be darkness, without any revelation.  The sun would go down on these evil prophets, so that their days would be pitch dark all around them.  The seers would be disgraced, while the diviners would be ashamed.  They would have nothing to say, because God would not answer them.

The Lord’s response through Daniel (Dan 13:44-13:46)

“The Lord heard

Susanna’s cry.

Just as she was being led off

To execution,

God stirred up

The Holy Spirit

Of a young lad

Named Daniel.

He shouted

With a loud voice.

‘I want no part

In shedding

That woman’s blood.’”

The Lord heard the prayer cry of Susanna. Just as she was being led to her execution, God stirred up the Holy Spirit in a young man, Daniel. This phrase indicates that this probably belongs as the beginning of this book and not at the end since Daniel is called young, not old. The Holy Spirit appears in prophets quite often. Daniel then shouted out in a loud voice that he wanted no part in the shedding of this woman’s blood.

The punishment for the idol loving Levite ministers (Ezek 44:10-44:12)

“‘But the Levites,

Who went far from me,

Going astray

From me

After their idols,

When Israel went astray,

Shall bear

Their punishment.

They shall be ministers

In my sanctuary,

Having oversight

At the gates

Of the temple.

They shall serve

In the temple.

They shall slaughter

The burnt offerings.

They shall slaughter

The sacrifices

For the people.

They shall attend

On them.

They shall serve them.

Because they ministered

To them

Before their idols,

They made

The house of Israel

Stumble into iniquity.

Therefore,

I have sworn concerning them.

They shall bear their punishment.’

Says Yahweh God!”

In a diatribe against the Levitical priests who had served idols in the high places, Yahweh was upset. However, his punishment was merely lowly menial tasks in the Temple, not a drastic death sentence. These Levites had sinned because they had led Israel astray with their idol worshipping. They made Israel stumble into iniquity. Thus, they were to be punished. They would only have oversight at the gates to the Temple, not in the sanctuary. They also would slaughter the burnt offerings and other sacrifices. They would continue to minister to Yahweh and his people, but only in the more pedestrian roles. This seems like a mild form of punishment for idol worship and leading the Israelites astray.

The scattering of the evil ones (Jer 13:22-13:24)

“If you say in your heart,

‘Why have these things

Come upon me?’

It is for the greatness

Of your iniquity.

Thus your skirts are lifted up.

You are violated.

Can Ethiopians change their skin?

Can leopards change their spots?

You!

Can you do good

Since you are so accustomed to do evil?

I will scatter you

Like chaff driven by the wind

From the desert.’”

Yahweh was concerned that they did not realize what was going to happen to them. Was it their iniquity that led them to this point? Yes, they would be ashamed, because their skirts would be lifted up, as they will be sexually violated. The problem is that they cannot change their ways. Just like the Ethiopians with their dark skin cannot change their skin color, so neither can a leopard change its spots. They had become so accustomed to evil that they could not do any good things anymore. Thus Yahweh will scatter them like useless chaff with a strong desert wind.

The ingratitude of their ancestors (Jer 2:5-2:8)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘What wrong did your ancestors

Find in me?

They went far from me.

They went after worthless things.

They became worthless themselves.

They did not say.

‘Where is Yahweh?

He brought us up

From the land of Egypt.

He led us in the wilderness.

He led us in a land of deserts.

He led us in a land of pits.

He led us in a land of drought.

He led us in a land of deep darkness.

He led us in a land that no one passes through.

He led us in a land where no man dwells.’

I brought you into a plentiful land.

I brought you to eat its fruits.

I brought you to eat its good things.

But when you entered,

You defiled my land.

You made my heritage an abomination.

The priests did not say.

‘Where is Yahweh?’

Those who handle the law

Did not know me.

The rulers transgressed against me.

The prophets prophesied by Baal.

They went after things that do not profit.”

Jeremiah has Yahweh complain about their ancestors. Why did they go far from Yahweh, going after worthless things, so that they themselves became worthless? They seem to have forgotten that Yahweh led them out of Egypt through the desert wilderness with its pits, drought, and darkness. Very few people were able to make it through the lifeless wilderness. He brought them into a wonderful plentiful land that had many fruits to eat. However, as soon as they entered the land, they defiled it and made his heritage an abomination. The priests did not know Yahweh and follow his laws. The rulers transgressed the laws of Yahweh. The prophets used prophecies by the pagan gods of Baal. They all went after unprofitable and unproductive things.

Bad leaders (Isa 3:12-3:12)

“My people!

Children are

Their oppressors.

Women rule

Over them.

O my people!

Your leaders

Mislead you.

They confused

The course of your paths.”

Isaiah rails against the bad leaders in Judah. They mislead his people, the Israelites. They confused them. They led them on the wrong paths. Now however, they are suffering because children are oppressing them. One of the terrible things that happened to them was being ruled by women, since Isaiah considered this an evil thing.

King Jeroboam (Sir 47:23-44:25)

“Then Jeroboam son of Nebat

Led Israel into sin.

He started Ephraim

On its sinful ways.

Their sins increased

More and more,

Until they were exiled

From their land.

They sought out

Every kind of wickedness,

Until vengeance came upon them.”

Interesting enough, Sirach talked about the king who led the Israelite northern kingdom, who was not in the Davidic line of kings. Sirach was very harsh in his judgment about the northern rebels. Their kingdom was in fact called Israel, while the southern kingdom was called Judah. Jeroboam the son of Nebat was from Ephraim, just north of Judah and Benjamin. He actually had worked for Solomon in his administration, as indicated in 1 Kings, chapters 11-14. A prophet told Jeroboam that he would be king. After a meeting with Rehoboam, Jeroboam set up a new kingdom at Shechem. His great sin was that he did not want the people to go to Jerusalem to worship. Thus he setup his own worship places. This false worship led to the downfall of the northern Kingdom of Israel (721 BCE) before that of the Kingdom of Judah (587 BCE).  The wickedness of this kingdom deserved the vengeance that came to it.

King Rehoboam (Sir 47:23-47:23)

“Solomon rested

With his ancestors.

He left behind him

One of his sons.

Rehoboam was

Broad in folly.

He was

Lacking in understanding.

His policy drove

The people to revolt.”

Now Sirach turns to the Book of Kings that was also later divided into 2 sections. In the first book, in chapters 11-12, he clearly blamed the son of Solomon, Rehoboam, for the breakup of the kingdom of Israel. Sirach did not think much of Rehoboam, since he says that he was foolish and lacked understanding. He claims that it was Rehoboam’s policies that led to the northern revolt.

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.

Pride (Prov 16:18-16:21)

“Pride goes before destruction.

A haughty spirit happens before a fall.

It is better to be of a lowly spirit

Among the poor

Than to divide the spoil

With the proud.

Those who are attentive to a matter will prosper.

Happy are those who trust in Yahweh.

The wise of heart are called perceptive.

Pleasant speech increases persuasiveness.”

Being proud was not a good idea since it led to destruction. A haughty or proud spirit usually came before someone stumbled or fell. It is much better to be a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide up the spoils of victory with the proud people. If you are attentive to small matters you will prosper. If you trust in Yahweh, you will be happy. The wise ones are called perceptive. Pleasant speech will make it easier to be persuasive.