The visit to the king (Dan 6:6-6:6)

“So,

The presidents

With the satraps

Conspired.

They came

To the king.

They said to him.

‘O King Darius!

Live forever!’”

Thus, these two other presidents and the various satraps conspired against Daniel. They went to the king and gave him his official greeting, hoping for a long life for the king.

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Introduction to this wisdom poem (Bar 3:9-3:14)

“Hear the commandments of life!

O Israel!

Give ear!

Learn wisdom!

Why is it?

O Israel!

Why is it

That you are

In the land

Of your enemies?

Why are you growing old

In a foreign country?

Why are you defiled

With the dead?

Why are you counted

Among those in Hades?

You have forsaken

The fountain of wisdom.

If you had walked

In the way of God,

You would be living

In peace forever.

Learn

Where there is wisdom!

Learn

Where there is strength!

Learn

Where there is understanding!

Thus you may

At the same time

Discern!

Where is there length of days?

Where is there life?

Where is there light for the eyes?

Where is there peace?”

Now we have an introduction to a poem about wisdom. Israel was to hear about the commandments of life. They were to listen to learn about wisdom. Why were they growing old in the land of their enemies? Why were they defiled like dead people in Hades. Why were they forgotten, when they could have had wisdom if they had walked in the ways of God. They could be living in everlasting peace. They had to learn where wisdom, strength, and understanding were. Thus they could have a peaceful long life, with light for their eyes.

The live style of the Rechabites (Jer 35:7-35:10)

“‘You shall not

Build a house!

You shall not

Sow seed!

You shall not

Plant a vineyard!

You shall not

Own a vineyard!

You shall live

In tents

All your days!

Thus you may live many days

In the land where you reside.’

We have obeyed

This charge

Of our ancestor Jonadab

The son of Rechab,

In all that he commanded us.

Thus we ourselves,

Our wives,

Our sons,

Our daughters

Do not drink wine

All our days.

We do not build houses

To live in.

We have no vineyard.

We have no field.

We have no seed.

But we have lived in tents.

We have obeyed Jonadab.

We have done

All that our ancestor Jonadab

Commanded us.”

These Rechabites followed the commandments of Jonadab the son of Rechab. Thus they lived a unique nomad live style. Jonadab had commanded them not to build houses or sow seeds. They were to live in tents. They did not practice any kind of agriculture, so that they neither planted nor owned any vineyards or fields. They would live a long life, as long as they abstained from intoxicants, as they, their wives, and their children did not drink any wine. Since they did not cultivate grapes, they drank the milk of their animals. Thus they seem to be closer to the Hebrew Nazirites, who vowed a sacred separate life style, but only for a set time period, not cutting their hair, not drinking intoxicating liquids, and not touching unclean things. These Rechabites seem to be like a religious order or communal monks, actually like wandering desert Arabs.

A New Jerusalem (Isa 65:17-65:20)

“I am about to create new heavens.

I am about to create a new earth.

The former things

Shall not be remembered.

They shall not come to mind.

But be glad!

Rejoice forever In what I am creating!

I am about to create

Jerusalem as a joy.

I am about to create

Its people as a delight.

I will rejoice in Jerusalem!

I will delight in my people!

No more shall the sound

Of weeping be heard in it.

No more shall the sound

Of the cry of distress be heard in it.

No more shall there be in it

An infant that lives but a few days.

No more shall there be in it

An old person

Who does not live out a lifetime.

One who dies at a hundred years old

Will be considered a youth.

One who falls short of a hundred years old

Will be considered accursed.”

Yahweh was going to create a new heaven and a new earth. All the past things would be forgotten. Jerusalem was going to be a joy and a delight for its people, since there would be no more weeping or crying in distress. Infants would not die at child birth. Old people would live a long life. Anyone who died before 100 years of age would be considered a cursed youth. Good times would come to this new Jerusalem.

Your duty to your parents (Sir 3:1-3:9)

“Listen to me!

Your father!

O children!

Act accordingly!

Thus you may be kept in safety.

The Lord honors a father above his children.

The Lord confirms a mother’s right over her children.

Whoever honors their father

Atones for sins.

Whoever respects their mother is

Like one who lays up treasure.

Whoever honors their father

Will have joy in their own children.

When one prays

They will be heard.

Whoever respects their father

Will have a long life.

Whoever honors their mother

Obeys the Lord.

They will serve their parents as masters.

Honor your father by word.

Honor your father by deed.

Thus his blessing may come upon you.

A father’s blessing

Strengthens the houses of the children.

But a mother’s curse

Uproots their foundations.”

Now Sirach asks children to listen to their fathers. If they do so, they will be safe. The Lord has placed the father in charge of the children, so the children should respect their fathers. If they do, they will atone for their sins. They should respect their mothers because she is like an important treasure. If you honor your father, you will have joy in your own children. Their prayers will be heard. They will have a long life. If you honor your mother, you obey God. You should honor your parents by word and deed as if they were your masters. This is like the divine right of parents. Blessings will come upon you to strengthen the house of your children. However, watch out for the curse of your mother, which could uproot everything.

The inability to enjoy a wealthy life (Eccl 6:1-6:6)

“There is an evil

That I have seen under the sun.

It lies heavy upon humans.

God gives wealth.

God gives possessions.

God gives honor to people.

Thus they lack nothing of all that they desire.

Yet God does not enable them

To enjoy these things.

But a stranger enjoys them.

This is vanity.

It is a grievous illness.

If a man beget a hundred children,

If a man lives many years,

However many are the days of his years,

But he does not enjoy life’s good things,

If he has no burial,

I say

That a stillborn child is

Better off than he.

‘It comes into vanity.

It goes into darkness.

In darkness

Its name is covered.

Moreover it has not seen the sun

It does not know anything.

Yet it finds rest rather than him.’

Even though he should

Live a thousand years twice over,

Yet enjoy no good,

Do not all go to the one place?”

Qoheleth finds another evil under the sun in his pessimistic mood. What happens to those who have everything that they desire? Somehow they are not able to enjoy all their wealth. Instead a stranger seems to enjoy them. This is another useless vain thing, another grievous illness among us. Even if someone had 100 children and a long life, but cannot enjoy them, what is the point of all this? If he does not even get a burial, this wealthy person with a large family and a long life is no better off than a stillborn child. This is an amazing comparison. He maintains that the stillborn is better off because it lives in darkness with no name, never seeing the sun, or knowing anything, but finds a better rest than this old rich guy with the large family. Even though this person might live 2,000 years, he would not enjoy any good things. After all, the stillborn and this old guy, as well as everyone else, will end up in the same place, dead.

The wicked ruler (Prov 28:14-28:17)

“Happy is one who is never without fear.

But whoever is hard hearted

Will fall into calamity.

Like a roaring lion

Is a wicked ruler over a poor people.

Like a charging bear

Is a wicked ruler over a poor people.

A ruler who lacks understanding

Is a cruel oppressor.

But one who hates unjust gain

Will enjoy a long life.

If someone is burdened with the blood of another,

Let that killer be a fugitive until death.

Let no one help him.”

The wicked ruler is a reality. However, if you always have fear, you will be happy. Remember that fear of Yahweh was the beginning of wisdom. If you are hard hearted then things will go bad for you. The wicked ruler is like a roaring lion or a charging bear. Do not get in his way. If he lacks understanding he will be a cruel oppressor. If you are willing to not accept an unjust gain, you will enjoy a long life. However, if you killed someone, you are a fugitive for life. No one will help you.