The human task (Eccl 3:9-3:11)

“What gain have the workers received

From their toil?

I have seen the business

That God has given to everyone

To be busy with.

He has made everything suitable

For its time.

Moreover,

He has put a sense of past and future

Into human minds.

Yet they cannot find out

What God has done

From the beginning to the end.”

God has given workers things to busy themselves with, but they do not know their gain or profit. Everything, however, is suitable for its time. Humans have a sense of past and future, not just the present. Despite this, they do not know what God has done from the beginning until now or what he will do in the future.

Inheritance (Prov 28:8-28:10)

“Whoever augments his wealth by exorbitant interest

Gathers it for another who is kind to the poor.

When one will not listen to the law

Even one’s prayers are an abomination.

Those who mislead the upright into evil ways

Will fall into the pits of their own making.

But the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.”

If you augment your wealth with high interest rates, the law of retribution will get you, so that someone else will end up with your money. They will give it to the poor people so that your profit will be in vain. When you do not listen to the law, your very prayer will be an abomination. If you mislead the upright into evil ways, you will fall into the pits that you made for others. However, the blameless will have a good inheritance for their family.

The wicked (Prov 15:26-15:30)

“Evil plans are an abomination to Yahweh.

But gracious words are pure.

Those who are greedy for unjust gain

Make trouble for their household.

But those who hates bribes

Will live.

The mind of the righteous

Ponders how to answer.

But the mouth of the wicked

Pours out evil.

Yahweh is far from the wicked.

But he hears the prayer of the righteous.

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart.

Good news refreshes the body.”

Wicked evil plans are an abomination to Yahweh. Gracious words, on the other hand, are pure. The greedy seek after an unjust gain or profit as they make trouble for their family. If you hate bribes, you will have a long life. The righteous ponder how to answer questions, while the mouths of the wicked pour out evil things. Yahweh stays far away from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous. The light in your eyes rejoices your heart, just as good news refreshes your body.

Profit (Prov 14:23-14:25)

“In all toil

There is profit.

But mere talk

Leads only to poverty.

The crown of the wise

Is their wisdom.

But folly

Is the garland of fools.

A truthful witness saves lives.

But one who utters lies is a betrayer.”

There is profit or gain in all kinds of work. Mere talk, on the other hand, just leads to poverty. The crown for the wise is their wisdom, but the foolish have a garland of folly as their crown. The truthful witness saves lives, while the liar actually betrays life itself.

The wise child (Prov 10:2-10:5)

“A wise child makes a glad father.

But a foolish child is a mother’s grief.

Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit anyone.

But righteousness delivers from death.

Yahweh does not let the righteous go hungry,

But he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

A slack hand causes poverty.

But the hand of the diligent makes rich.

A child who gathers in summer is prudent,

But a child who sleeps in harvest brings shame.”

Right from the start of these sayings there is the contrast between the wise and the foolish child. Wickedness did not bring profit, but righteousness would save you from death. Early death was considered a punishment for sin. Yahweh would not let the righteous go hungry, but the wicked would be hungry. Notice the contrast and the idea of ‘but’. Here we have the classic explanation of poverty. You are poor because you do not work hard. You are rich because you have worked hard. There is never any mention of circumstances. Once again, we are back at the prudent child who gathers in the summer, while the other shameful child sleeps during the harvest time.

Wisdom and happiness (Prov 3:13-3:18)

“Happy are those who find wisdom!

Happy are those who get understanding!

Her income is better than silver.

Her revenue is better than gold.

She is more precious than jewels.

Nothing you desire can compare with her.

Long life is in her right hand.

In her left hand are riches.

In her left hand is honor.

Her ways are ways of pleasantness.

All her paths are peace.

All her paths are happiness.

She is a tree of life

To those who lay hold of her.

Those who hold her fast are called happy.”

You will be happy if you find wisdom. You will be happy because you have an intelligent understanding of life. The personification of wisdom is female not male. Her profit, income, or revenue is greater than silver, gold, or jewels. Nothing can compare to lady wisdom. In her right hand is a long life. In her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant. All her paths are peaceful and happy. She is the tree of life. Once you can get hold of her, you will be happy.

The wicked see no profit in God (Job 21:14-21:16)

“They say to God.

‘Leave us alone!

We do not desire to know your ways.

What is the Almighty Shaddai?

Why should we serve him?

What profit do we get?

Why pray to him?’

Is not their prosperity indeed their own achievement?

The plans of the wicked are repugnant to me.”

Job said that the wicked wanted God to leave them alone. They did not want to know his ways. Why should they bother with the almighty Shaddai? Why serve or pray to him since he would not bring them profit or prosperity? After all, does not prosperity come from their achievements and their own initiative? Job maintained that all the plans of the wicked were repulsive to him.

The condensed story (2 Macc 2:23-2:28)

“All of this has been set forth by Jason of Cyrene in five volumes. We shall attempt to condense it into a single book. There is a considerable flood of statistics involved. The difficulty is that those who wish to enter upon the narratives of history find a mass of material. We have aimed to please those who wish to read it by making it easier for those who are inclined to memorize, and thus profit all readers. For us who have undertaken the toil of abbreviating, it is no light matter but calls for sweat and loss of sleep. It is not easy for one who prepares a banquet and seeks the benefit of others. Nevertheless, to secure the gratitude of many we will gladly endure the uncomfortable toil. We leave the responsibility for exact details to the compiler, while devoting our effort to arriving at the outlines of the condensation.”

Apparently there was a 5 volume work on the history of the Maccabees by a Jason of Cyrene. That work is now lost. This anonymous biblical author wanted to condense it down into 1 volume. This might be called the “Reader’s Digest” of the Maccabees story. He claimed that there was a lot of statistics and material about Judas Maccabeus and his brothers. He was going to make it easy to read and memorize in his abbreviated version. However, doing so was not easy, but like an uncomfortable task, like preparing a banquet. He was not going to sweat the details since he was more concerned with the outline in his condensation.