He will not drink strong drink (Lk 1:15-1:15)

“John will be great

In the sight

Of the Lord.

He must never

Drink wine,

Or any strong drink.

He will be filled

With the Holy Spirit,

Even before his birth,

From his mother’s womb.”

 

ἔσται γὰρ μέγας ἐνώπιον Κυρίου, καὶ οἶνον καὶ σίκερα οὐ μὴ πίῃ, καὶ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου πλησθήσεται ἔτι ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ,

 

Now comes the jolt, as the role of this John would be made clear.  This angel, via Luke, pointed out that this child will not be just another Jewish kid, but someone special, befitting his special birth.  Luke had the angel continue that John would be great in the sight of the Lord (ἔσται γὰρ μέγας ἐνώπιον Κυρίου).  However, he must never drink wine, or any strong intoxicating drink (καὶ οἶνον καὶ σίκερα οὐ μὴ πίῃ), like a Nazirite, a person dedicated to God, as in Numbers, chapter 6:1-4.  Either a man or woman could take these Nazirite vows that made them closer to Yahweh.  In Hebrew the term “nazir” meant a vow, so that it was possible for a non-Levite to be a favorite of Yahweh also.  Vow taking in most religious groups sets those people apart, just as the religious vows of the medieval Catholic Church became popular, producing vowed monks and nuns.  A striking English comment would be that these are “Nazi rites.”  This Nazirite vow separates them from normal life, especially from wine and anything to do with grapes.  The Nazirite stayed away from grapes of any kind.  Thus, John was to be filled with the Holy Spirit (καὶ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου πλησθήσεται) even before his birth, from his mother’s womb (ἔτι ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ).  John would be holy before he was born.  The Holy Spirit would play a major role in the works of Luke here and in Acts.  This special role of John is similar to Samuel in 1 Samuel, chapter 1:11, and Samson in Judges, chapter 13:4-7, in the Hebrew Bible.  Both were dedicated to be Nazirites before their birth.  John was to be a special dude.

 

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mk 3:29-3:29)

“But whoever blasphemes

Against the Holy Spirit

Can never have forgiveness.

But he is guilty

Of an eternal sin.”

 

ὃς δ’ ἂν βλασφημήσῃ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, οὐκ ἔχει ἄφεσιν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἀλλὰ ἔνοχός ἐστιν αἰωνίου ἁμαρτήματος.

 

There are similar statements to this in Matthew, chapter 12:31, and Luke, chapter 12:10.  Both Matthew and Luke said that it might be okay to disrespect the Son of Man, but it was quite another thing to speak against or blasphemy the Holy Spirit.  Blasphemy was profaning the name of God.  If you profaned the Holy Spirit, you were hopeless.  If you gave up on God and his Spirit, there was no hope of forgiveness.  God would forgive all human sins and blasphemies.  Whoever blasphemed against the Holy Spirit (ὃς δ’ ἂν βλασφημήσῃ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον), would never be forgiven even in eternity (οὐκ ἔχει ἄφεσιν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα).  He would be guilty of an eternal sin (ἀλλὰ ἔνοχός ἐστιν αἰωνίου ἁμαρτήματος). Anyone who spoke against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven either now or in the future.

The crowd was astonished (Mt 22:33-22:33)

“When the crowd

Heard this,

They were astonished

At his teaching.”

 

καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ ὄχλοι ἐξεπλήσσοντο ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ.

 

There is something similar in Mark, chapter 12:27, and Luke, chapter 20:39-40, but Luke has the scribes so astonished that they never asked him another question.  Once again, Matthew noted that when the crowds heard this (καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ ὄχλοι), they were astonished or amazed (ἐξεπλήσσοντο) at his teaching (ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ).

The eternal kingdom (Dan 2:44-2:45)

“In the days

Of those kings,

The God of heaven

Will set up a kingdom

That shall never be destroyed.

This kingdom

Shall not be left

To another people.

It shall crush

All these kingdoms.

It shall bring them

To an end.

It shall stand forever.

Just as you saw

That a stone was cut

From the mountain,

Not by human hands.

This stone crushed

The iron,

The bronze,

The clay,

The silver,

The gold.

The great God

Has informed

The king

What shall be hereafter.

The dream is certain.

Its interpretation is

Trustworthy.”

Daniel then talked about the fifth and final kingdom, the eternal kingdom, set up by the God of heaven that shall never be destroyed. No other people would inherit this kingdom, since it would crush all the other kingdoms, like the stone in the king’s dream that crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and gold kingdoms. The great God in heaven has informed King Nebuchadnezzar about the future. Thus, Daniel concluded that the dream was certain and his interpretation was also trustworthy.

Commentary on the burden of Yahweh (Jer 23:34-23:38)

“As for the prophet,

The priest,

Or one of the people

Who say.

‘The burden of Yahweh.’

I will punish them.

I will punish their households.

Thus shall you say,

To one another,

Among yourselves.

‘What has Yahweh answered?

‘What has Yahweh spoken?’

But ‘the burden of Yahweh’

You shall mention no more.

The burden is

Everyone’s own word.

Thus you pervert

The words of the living God.

Yahweh of hosts!

Our God!

Thus you shall ask the prophet.

‘What has Yahweh answered you?’

‘What has Yahweh spoken?’

But if you say.

‘The burden of Yahweh.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Because you have said

These words,

‘The burden of Yahweh,

When I sent to you,

Saying,

‘You shall not say.

‘The burden of Yahweh.’”

This commentary on the “burden of Yahweh” seems to be a later addition trying to explain why you should never say “The burden of Yahweh.” A burden is something that you bare. Perhaps it is the heavy burden that the prophet Jeremiah’s words brought to the people. Yahweh was going to punish people and their households who said that the word of Yahweh was a burden. Rather, it seems like it should be a blessing. The prophet, the priest, or the people all should never mention the “burden of Yahweh.” They should say that Yahweh has spoken or answered them. He has not given them a burden, since this would be a perversion of the word of God. Simply put, stop using the term burden when speaking about God and his words.

The problems in lending money (Sir 29:4-29:7)

“Many persons regard a loan

As a windfall.

This causes trouble

To those who help them.

One kisses another’s hands

Until he gets a loan.

He is very deferential

In speaking of his neighbor’s money.

But at the time

For repayment,

He delays.

He pays back

With empty promises.

He finds fault with the time.

If he can pay,

His creditor

Will hardly get back half.

The borrower will regard

That as a windfall.

If he cannot pay,

The borrower has robbed

The other of his money.

He has needlessly

Made him an enemy.

He will repay him

With curses.

He will repay him

With reproaches.

Instead of glory,

He will repay him

With dishonor.

Many refuse to lend,

Not because of meanness,

But from fear of being defrauded needlessly.”

Sirach says that this ideal of lending money to your neighbor as giving a helping hand has a few hiccups. Some people think that the loan is a gift, so that they never pay it back. They go around being very deferential to the people with money, kissing their hands. However, when it comes time to repay the loan all they give back are empty promises. They say that they need more time. Sometimes they only pay half of it back, since they think the rest of it was a gift to them. If they do not pay it back, they have robbed their neighbor. They have needlessly made him an enemy. Curses and reproaches will follow with dishonor and anger on all sides. This had led many people to refuse to lend money because they are afraid of being defrauded. Thus there are less and less no interest loans happening.

Planting seeds (Eccl 11:4-11:6)

“Whoever observes the wind

Will not sow.

Whoever regards the clouds

Will not reap.

Just as you do not know

How the breath comes to the bones

In the mother’s womb,

So you do not know

The work of God

Who makes everything.

In the morning,

Sow your seed.

At evening,

Do not let your hand be idle.

You do not know

Which will prosper,

This or that,

Whether both alike will be good.”

If you wait for the perfect wind or the perfect clouds, you will never sow or reap. You have no idea how breath comes to bones in a mother’s womb. So too you have no idea how crops grow. Qoheleth reminds us that God made everything. In the morning, you sow your seeds, but you should not be idle in the evening. You are not sure which seeds will prosper, this one, that one, or both, only God knows.