Indifference (Mt 11:17-11:17)

“We played the flute

For you.

But you did not dance.

We wailed.

But you did not mourn.”

 

λέγουσιν Ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε· ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε·

 

Then Matthew has Jesus take on the present childish generation.  Luke, chapter 7:31, has a similar statement, word for word, indicating a possible common Q source.  This childish generation complained that John and Jesus would not dance to their flute playing (λέγουσιν Ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε).  They would not wail and lament when they wanted them to join their dirge (ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε).  Jesus and John the Baptist would not play their childish games by dancing and mourning at the drop of a hat.

Teach mourning to your children and neighbors (Jer 9:20-9:21)

“Hear!

O women!

The word of Yahweh!

Let your ears receive

The word of his mouth!

Teach to your daughters

A dirge!

Teach each to her neighbor

A lament!

Death has come up into our windows.

It has entered our palaces.

It has cut off the children

From the streets.

It has cut off the young men

From the squares.”

Jeremiah wanted the women to listen to the word of Yahweh. They should have receptive ears for his words. They should teach their daughters how to mourn at funerals. They should help their neighbors to learn how to mourn. Death was coming upon them through their windows. They should be ready because their palaces would see death, as if there was a god of death or angel of death approaching. Their children and young men would not be allowed to go into the streets to play or enter the squares to talk.

The perfect future time (Isa 11:6-11:9)

“The wolf shall live

With the lamb.

The leopard shall lie down

With the kid goat.

The calf shall be with the lion.

The lion and the fatling shall be together.

A little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze together.

Their young shall lie down together.

The lion shall eat straw

Like the ox.

The nursing child shall play

Over the hole of the asp.

The weaned child shall put his hand

On the adder’s den.

But they will not get hurt.

They will not destroy

All my holy mountains.

The earth shall be full

Of the knowledge of Yahweh,

Just as the waters cover the sea.”

Isaiah points out that this future messianic king will be Davidic, with the Spirit of Yahweh, just, and live in an ideal perfect time, where all disagreements would disappear. All our problems would be solved in this idyllic perfect age to come, like the paradise that was lost. The wolf and the lamb would get along. So too, the leopard and the kid goat would be fine together. Calves, lions, and feed animals would all be as one. The cow and the bear would graze on the same field. A little child would be able to lead them, since they are so tame. Lions would eat grass and straw, just like oxen. Little nursing children would play by an asp nest or put their hands into adder’s den, and still not get hurt. No one will hurt the holy mountains. The whole earth would be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh, the Lord, just as there is the right amount of water in the seas.

Avoid a spoiled son (Sir 30:7-30:13)

“Whoever spoils his son,

Will bind up his wounds.

You will suffer heartache

At every cry.

An unbroken horse

Turns out stubborn.

An unchecked son

Turns out headstrong.

Pamper a child,

Then he will terrorize you.

Play with him,

Then he will give you grief.

Do not laugh with him,

Lest you have sorrow with him.

In the end

You will gnash your teeth.

Give him no freedom

In his youth.

Do not ignore his errors.

Bow down his neck

In his youth.

Beat his sides

While he is young,

Lest he become stubborn.

He will disobey you.

You will have sorrow of soul

From him.

Discipline your son.

Make his yoke heavy.

Thus you may not be offended

By his shamelessness.”

Once again, Sirach reflects the ideals of his time about the importance of discipline and corporal punishment of children. Above all, do not spoil your son! Otherwise, you will spend a lifetime healing his wounds and suffering heartaches at his every cry. The young boy is compared to a horse that is unbroken, stubborn, and headstrong. If you pamper your son, then he will terrorize you. Do not laugh or play with your son! Otherwise, you will end up gnashing your teeth. Do not give him any freedom when he is young! Do not ignore his mistakes! Beat him up on his sides when he is young! If not, he will become stubborn and disobey you. Then you will have a sorrowful soul. Make his iron collar heavy so that he does not end up shameless. Be tough on those kids!

The little foxes (Song 2:15-2:15)

Female lover

“Catch us!

The foxes.

We are the little foxes

That ruin the vineyards.

Our vineyards are in blossom.”

Her response is enigmatic, not straightforward. She reminded him about the little foxes that spoil the vineyards in bloom. Her own vineyards were also in bloom. She seems to add a word of caution, yet excitement. Lillian Hellman (1905-1984) wrote a play and movie about the nasty Little Foxes in 1939 and 1942, based on this little biblical passage.

Life is a game of chance (Eccl 9:11-9:12)

“Again I saw that under the sun.

The race is not to the swift.

Nor is the battle to the strong.

Nor is bread to the wise.

Nor is riches to the intelligent.

Nor is favor to the skillful.

But time happens to them all.

Chance happens to them all.

No one can anticipate

The time of disaster.

Like fish taken in a cruel net,

Like birds caught in a snare,

So mortals are snared

At a time of calamity.

When it suddenly falls upon them.”

Qoheleth sees human life under the sun like a game of chance. The swiftest runner does not always win the race. The strongest do not always win the battle. The wise do not always have the best food. The intelligent are not always rich. The skillful do not always succeed. Time and chance play a role. No one can predict when disaster will come. Just as fish and birds get stuck in nets and snares, so too mortals get caught when calamity suddenly happens to them.

The good wife (Prov 18:22-18:24)

“He who finds a wife

Finds happiness.

He obtains favor from Yahweh.

The poor use entreaties.

But the rich answer roughly.

Some friends play at friendship.

But a true friend sticks closer

Than one’s nearest relative.”

You will be happy if you find a good wife. Yahweh will favor you. Even though the poor use entreaties to beg, the rich usually answer roughly. Some people play at friendship, but a true friend stays closer to you than your own relatives.