The enemies of Jerusalem (Bar 4:30-4:35)

“Take courage!

O Jerusalem!

The one who named you

Will comfort you.

Wretched will be

Those who mistreated you!

They rejoiced at your fall.

Wretched will be

The cities

That your children

Served as slaves!

Wretched will be

The city

That received your offspring!

She rejoiced

At your fall.

She was glad

For your ruin.

Now she will be grieved

At her own desolation.

I will take away her pride

In her great population.

Her insolence

Will be turned to grief.

Fire will come upon her

from the Everlasting One

For many days.

For a long time,

She will be inhabited

By demons.”

Now there is a turn, as this author speaks directly to Jerusalem instead of Jerusalem herself complaining. Jerusalem was encouraged to be courageous. She would be comforted. However, those who mistreated her and rejoiced at her fall will be miserable. The cities where the children of Jerusalem served as slaves would be miserable also. The city of Babylon, that received the children of Jerusalem, rejoiced and was glad at the downfall and ruin of Jerusalem. Now they will be grieved at their own desolation. The pride of those people and their insolence will be turned to grief. The Everlasting One, not Yahweh, will bring fire upon it for many days. For a long time it will be inhabited by demons.

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The worship of idols (Wis 13:10-13:10)

“But miserable,

With their hopes set on dead things,

Are those Who give the name ‘gods’

To the works of men’s hands.

That is gold fashioned with skill.

That is silver fashioned with skill,

In the likenesses of animals.

That is a useless stone,

The work of an ancient hand.”

Now this author is much more opposed to the works of human hands seen as gods (θεοὺς ἔργα χειρῶν ἀνθρώπων) rather than works of nature, which were not as bad. These idol worship people are miserable. They put their hopes in dead things and called them gods. These skillful art works of gold and silver were usually in the form of some kind of animal. These ancient man made stones that were considered useless.

The punishment of the unjust (Wis 3:10-3:13)

“But the ungodly will be punished.

As their reasoning deserves,

They disregarded the righteous.

They rebelled against the Lord.

Whoever despises wisdom,

Whoever despises instruction,

Are miserable.

Their hope is vain.

Their labors are unprofitable.

Their works are useless.

Their wives are foolish.

Their children are evil.

Their offspring are accursed.”

The ungodly, unjust ones (ἀσεβεῖς) will be punished because they disregarded the righteous. They rebelled against the Lord (τοῦ Κυρίου ἀποστάντες). Whoever despises wisdom and instruction (σοφίαν γὰρ καὶ παιδείαν) will be miserable. Their hope is useless. Their labors are not profitable. Their wives are foolish (αἱ γυναῖκες αὐτῶν ἄφρονες) and their children are evil (πονηρὰ τὰ τέκνα αὐτῶν). They will have accursed offspring (ἐπικατάρατος ἡ γένεσις αὐτῶν).

Strong drinks (Prov 31:4-31:7)

“It is not for kings.

O Lemuel!

It is not for kings to drink wine.

Rulers should not desire strong drink.

Otherwise if they drink,

They will forget what has been decreed.

They will pervert the rights of all the afflicted.

Give strong drink to him who is perishing!

Give wine to those in bitter distress!

Let them drink!

Let them forget their poverty!

Let them remember their misery no more!”

Now we have a warning against strong drink or alcohol, which was a common prohibition among the ancient and current Arabic countries. The king should not drink wine or strong drinks because he would forget what he had decreed. He might end up perverting the rights of all the afflicted. Even in this prohibition against strong drink, there was a sense of social justice in that the king might forget about his subjects and their afflictions. However, in a strange turn of events, it was okay to give strong drink to those who were dying. My father, who was dying of throat cancer, decided to drink alcohol rather than take drugs. Anyone in great distress could have a strong drink. They were allowed to drink because it would help them forget their poverty and misery. Strong drink was allowed for the dying, the poor, and the miserable, but not for a king.

Job describes his difficult human life (Job 7:1-7:6)

“Do not human beings have a hard service on earth?

Are not their days like the days of a laborer?

Are not their days like a slave who longs for the shadow?

Are not their days like laborers who look for their wages?

So I am allotted months of emptiness.

Nights of misery are apportioned to me.

When I lie down I say.

‘When shall I arise?’

But the night is long.

I am full of tossing until dawn.

My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt.

My skin hardens.

Then my skin breaks out again.

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.

They come to their end without hope.”

This was a man in despair. He had a hard mortal life. He was like a day laborer who got paid by the day, assuming that he worked. He was like a paid mercenary. He was a like a slave who only looked for shade. All that he could hope for was his paid wages. His months were empty. His nights were miserable.   When he lay down, all he could think of was when he would get up. He tossed and turned all night long with little sleep. His flesh was full of worms and dirt. His skin hardened and then broke out again. His days went by like a weaver’s spinning wheel. In the end, there was no hope in his hopeless hard human life.

Job curses life itself (Job 3:20-3:23)

“Why is light given to one in misery?

Why is life given to the bitter in soul?

They long for death, but it does not come.

They dig for it more than for hidden treasures.

They rejoice exceedingly.

They are glad

As they find the grave.

Why is light given to one who cannot see the way?

Why is light given to those whom God has fenced in?”

The major question of this biblical book is why.  Why do the bitter in soul have life? Why is there light for the miserable? Why doesn’t death come to those who long for it? Some people seek death as if they were seeking hidden treasures. They are glad and rejoicing when they find their grave. Why give light to one who cannot see. Why has God fenced in certain people? This seems to favor those who are suffering and want an end to it with euthanasia. However, death here seems to be passive rather than active.