The punishment (Zech 7:12-7:14)

“Therefore,

Great wrath

Came from Yahweh of hosts.

‘Just as when I called,

They would not hear,

So,

When they called,

I would not hear.’

Says Yahweh of hosts.

‘I scattered them

With a whirlwind

Among all the nations

That they had not known.

Thus,

The land they left

Was desolate.

Thus,

No one went to and fro.

A pleasant land

Was made desolate.’”

Thus, Yahweh sent punishments to these stubborn Israelites.  Great wrath and anger came from Yahweh of hosts.  Since they would not listen to Yahweh, he was not going to listen to them.  He decided to scatter them to the winds among the various other countries.  Many of these countries, they knew nothing about them.  Thus, the great land of Israel was left desolate.  No one was moving about in this pleasant land that became a desolation.

The sounds from above (Ezek 1:24-1:25)

“When they moved,

I heard the sound

Of their wings.

It was

Like the sound

Of mighty waters.

It was

Like the thunder

Of the Almighty.

It was

Like a sound of tumult.

It was

Like the sound of an army.

When they stopped,

They let down

Their wings.

There came

A voice

From above the dome

Over their heads.

When they stopped,

They let down

Their wings.”

What sounds did Ezekiel hear? He heard the sounds of the wings of these creatures as they moved. This sound was like the sound of mighty waters, like the thunder of the Almighty God, El Shaddai, not that of Yahweh. This sound was like the sound of a great commotion or an army on the move. However, when they stopped moving their wings, a voice came from above the dome over their heads. Then the same phrase was repeated again. When they stopped, they let down their wings.

The sign of the sundial (Isa 38:7-38:8)

“Isaiah said.

‘This is the sign to you

From Yahweh.

Yahweh will do this thing

That he has promised.

See!

I will make the shadow

Cast by the declining sun

On the dial of Ahaz

Turn back ten steps.’

So the sun turned back

On the dial

The ten steps

By which it had declined.”

This passage seems out of place here, since the healing of King Hezekiah is at the end of this chapter. This backwards moving of the sundial is the sign that Isaiah was to give to King Hezekiah. Instead of Isaiah crying out, this is an abbreviated version of what appeared to 2 Kings, chapter 20, with just the simple statement of Isaiah. This sundial had been installed by King Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz (736-716 BCE). Since moving forward would not be difficult and was normal. However, if the shadow moved backward, that would be a strange. Thus the sundial moved back 10 intervals, indicating that the sun had moved backwards, which would have been miraculous. If they only knew that the earth was moving and not the sun, they would have been even more astonished.

Manual work versus wisdom (Sir 38:24-38:26)

“The wisdom of the scribe

Depends on the opportunity

Of leisure.

Only the one who has little business

Can become wise.

How can one become wise

Who handles the plow?

How can one become wise

Who glories in the shaft of a goad?

How can one become wise

Who drives oxen?

How can one become wise

Who is occupied with their work?

How can one become wise

Whose talk is about bulls?

He sets his heart on plowing furrows.

He is careful about fodder

For the heifers.”

Sirach recognizes that you cannot be a wise writer if you do not have leisure time. If you are doing business deals, you do not have time for wisdom. Most people were too busy with getting their oxen moving a plow, in the good old days before John Deere tractors. If you are occupied with your work in the fields, and taking care of bulls and heifers, how would you have any leisure time to be wise?

Necessities of life (Sir 29:21-29:24)

“The necessities of life are

Water,

Bread,

And Clothing.

You also need a house

To assure privacy.

Better is the life

Of the poor,

Under their own crude roof,

Than sumptuous food

In the house of others.

Be content with little or much.

It is a miserable life

To go from house to house.

As a guest,

You should not open your mouth.”

Sirach indicates the necessities of life are water, bread, and clothing, something to eat, drink, and wear. However, he adds a fourth, a place to live, that is a house that will assure your privacy. He points out that it is better to be in your own crude house than have wonderful food in someone else’s house. You should be content with your life, whether you have much or little. It is a miserable way to live in moving from house to house without a permanent residence. If you are a guest, you should keep your mouth shut.

The earth around us (Eccl 1:4-1:7)

“A generation goes.

A generation comes.

But the earth remains forever.

The sun rises.

The sun goes down.

The sun hastens to the place

Where it rises.

The wind blows to the south.

The wind goes around to the north.

Round and round goes the wind.

On its circuits

The wind returns.

All streams run to the sea.

But the sea is not full.

They continue to flow

To the place where the streams flow.

There they continue to flow.”

This is a stunning appreciation of creation. Generations of humans come and go, but the earth remains forever in a static flat world concept. The sun rises and sets every day. There was no thought that the earth was moving around a static sun. The wind blew in from the north to south and then around and around again. The wind, as we know, blows in various directions. The streams do run to the sea, and not vice versa. However, the seas never seem to fill up because there is osmosis. No matter what, the streams continue to flow to where they want to go, usually downhill because of gravity. Thus this poetic expression of creation uses the scientific assumptions of its day, not those of the later scientific age.

Slaves, fools, and unloved wives (Prov 30:21-30:23)

“Under three things the earth trembles.

Under four it cannot bear up.

They are

When a slave becomes king,

When a fool is glutted with food,

When an unloved woman gets a husband,

When a maid succeeds her mistress.”

Once again we are back at the numerical proverb of 3 and 4. The earth trembles. There are 4 things that this author cannot bear: 1) a slave who becomes a king, 2) a fool filled with food, 3) an unloved woman with a husband, and 4) a maid that succeeds her mistress. These seem like annoying circumstances for an elite person who does not like people moving out of their social class status. However, there is a sensibility to the unloved wife and the scorned mistress.