Shut off heaven (Mt 23:14-23:14)

“Woe to you!

Scribes!

Woe to you!

Pharisees!

Hypocrites!

You devour widow’s houses!

For the sake of appearance,

You make long prayers!

Therefore,

You will receive

The greater condemnation.”

 

Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι, ὑποκριταί, ὅτι κατεσθίετε τὰς οἰκίας τῶν χηρῶν, καὶ προφάσει μακρὰ προσευχόμενοι· διὰ τοῦτο λήψεσθε περισσότερον κρίμα.

 

This verse is missing in a number of manuscripts but can be found in other Greek Orthodox versions of this unique saying of Matthew.  This first part of the opening verse is exactly the same as the preceding verse.  Woe to you (Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν)!  Scribes (γραμματεῖς)!  Woe to you!  Pharisees (καὶ Φαρισαῖοι)!  Hypocrites (ὑποκριταί)!  There is no doubt that here Jesus was cursing the Scribes and the Pharisees, who were devouring widow’s houses (ὅτι κατεσθίετε τὰς οἰκίας τῶν χηρῶν), as they were taking advantage of widows.  They also made long lengthy prayers (καὶ προφάσει μακρὰ προσευχόμενοι·), so that they would look better and more pious.  However, they were about to receive a greater condemnation (διὰ τοῦτο λήψεσθε περισσότερον κρίμα) than they had expected.

 

The falling cornerstone (Mt 21:44-21:44)

“The one who falls

On this stone

Will be broken

To pieces.

It will crush anyone

On whom it falls.”

 

καὶ ὁ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τὸν λίθον τοῦτον συνθλασθήσεται· ἐφ’ ὃν δ’ ἂν πέσῃ, λικμήσει αὐτόν

 

This is exactly the same in Luke 20:18, but it is missing in many manuscripts of Matthew.  Jesus came back to his cornerstone idea.  If anyone fell on this key stone (καὶ ὁ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τὸν λίθον), they would be broken or shattered into pieces (τοῦτον συνθλασθήσεται).  If this stone fell on anyone (ἐφ’ ὃν δ’ ἂν πέσῃ), it would crush and grind them into powder (λικμήσει αὐτόν).  You had to be careful with this cornerstone.

The future good shepherds (Jer 23:3-23:4)

“‘Then I myself

Will gather the remnant

Of my flock

Out of all the lands

Where I have driven them.

I will bring them back

To their fold.

They shall be fruitful.

They shall multiply.

I will raise up

Shepherds over them.

They will shepherd them.

They shall not fear any longer.

They shall not be dismayed.

None shall be missing.’

Says Yahweh.”

At some future time, Yahweh will gather the remnant of his flock from all the countries that they were driven into. He is going to bring them back into the fold where they will be fruitful and multiply. Moreover, he will then put good shepherd leaders over them. They will no longer fear or be dismayed. No one will be missing. Thus the future good times would have good leaders.

The death of 185,000 Assyrians (Isa 37:36-37:36)

“Then the angel of Yahweh set out.

He struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand

In the camp of the Assyrians.

When morning dawned,

They were all dead bodies.”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19, except that missing here is “that very day.” Wow! This is an amazing number, even greater than the Egyptian plagues. The angel of Yahweh, at the time of the Exodus, killed the first born children of Egypt. Here the angel of Yahweh killed Assyrian warriors. 185,000 is a lot of people to die in one night. Herodotus the Greek historian noted that the Assyrians were defeated at the Egyptian borders when mice ate their bowstrings. Mice could have brought a plague, but to kill everyone of the 185,000 in one night seems a bit much.

The book of Yahweh (Isa 34:16-34:17)

“Seek the book of Yahweh!

Read from the book of Yahweh!

Not one of these shall be missing.

None shall be without its mate.

The mouth of Yahweh has commanded.

His Spirit has gathered them.

He has cast the lot for them.

His hand has portioned it out to them

With the line.

They shall possess it forever.

From generation to generation,

They shall live in it.”

It is not clear what the book of Yahweh is. Is this the Torah or is it the oracles of Isaiah? Isaiah wants you to seek it out and read from it. Nothing will be missing from it. Everything will have a mate. The mouth of Yahweh has commanded this as his Spirit has gathered them. He has gambled for them and protected them. He has given them their portion that will last forever from generation to generation. Perhaps this is a reference to the Israelites.

The fear of the Lord (Sir 19:18-19:19)

“The fear of the Lord

Is the beginning of acceptance.

Wisdom obtains his love.

The knowledge of the Lord’s commandments

Is life-giving discipline.

Those who do what is pleasing to him

Enjoy the fruit of the tree of immortality.”

These verses were missing in some manuscripts. Once again there is an emphasis on the fear of the Lord. Without it, you cannot accept life. Wisdom will bring love. True wisdom is the knowledge of the Lord’s commandments in a life of discipline. Those who are pleasing to the Lord will enjoy the fruits of an immortal life.

The vision of Eliphaz (Job 4:12-4:21)

“Now a word came stealing to me.

My ear received the whisper of it.

Amid thoughts from visions of the night,

When deep sleep falls on mortals,

Dread came upon me.

Trembling made all my bones shake.

A spirit glided past my face.

The hair of my flesh bristled.

It stood still.

But I could not discern its appearance.

A form was before my eyes.

There was silence.

Then I heard a voice.

‘Can mortals be righteous before God?

Can human beings be pure before their Maker?

Even in his servants he puts no trust.

His angels he charges with error.

How much more those who live in houses of clay,

Whose foundation is in the dust,

Who are crushed like a moth.

Between morning and evening,

They are destroyed.

They perish forever without any regarding it.

If their tent-cord is plucked up within them,

They die devoid of wisdom.’”

Eliphaz had some kind of vision or heavenly revelation. It is not clear when this took place. Somehow this non-Israelite had a divine intervention in his life like a whisper at night in his ear while he was asleep. Dread came upon him as a spirit glided past his face and the hair on his body bristled or stood up. He could not see what this was, but he could hear a voice asking how can mortal human beings be righteous, upright, and innocent? If the angels or God’s servants make errors and are not trustworthy, how much more humans made of clay and dust. Man as clay and dust is reminiscent of Genesis, chapter 2. Between morning and evening, humans could be crushed like moths, completely destroyed. Humans can die without wisdom or a pre-mature death, if their tent-cord is plucked.   This is the only biblical usage of a tent-cord. It must have been the thing that held the tent up so that if it was missing, the tent collapsed. So too with humans, death came when something essential was missing.