The covenant with Abraham (Lk 1:73-1:73)

“God has remembered

The oath

That he swore

To our ancestor

Abraham.”

 

ὅρκον ὃν ὤμοσεν πρὸς Ἀβραὰμ τὸν πατέρα ἡμῶν, τοῦ δοῦναι ἡμῖν

 

In case there was any doubt about what covenant or agreement Zechariah was talking about, he made it clear, via this canticle in Luke, that this was the covenant or agreement with Abraham to have him and his many descendants be prosperous as in Genesis, chapter 22:16-18.  Zechariah said that God had remembered or given them (τοῦ δοῦναι ἡμῖν) the oath (ὅρκον) that he swore (ὃν ὤμοσεν) to Abraham (πρὸς Ἀβραὰμ), their ancestor or father (τὸν πατέρα ἡμῶν).  The covenant was coming about right before their very eyes.  Notice it was not the Mosaic, but the older Abrahamic covenant that Luke emphasized.

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Another oracle about the past fasting (Zech 7:4-7:7)

“Then the word

Of Yahweh of hosts

Came to me.

‘Say to all the people

Of the land

As well as the priests.

‘When you fasted,

When you lamented,

In the fifth month

As well as the seventh month,

For these seventy years,

Was it for me

That you fasted?

When you eat.

When you drink,

Do you not eat

Only for yourselves?

Do you not drink

Only for yourselves?

Were not these the words

That Yahweh proclaimed

By the former prophets?

This was when

Jerusalem was inhabited

In prosperity.

Was this not when

The towns around it

Were inhabited?

Was this not when

The Negeb

With the Shephelah

Were inhabited?’”

Yahweh sent another oracle to Zechariah about the fasting and lamenting that they had done for the past 70 years during the 5th and 7th months because of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 587 BCE and the murder of their governor.  Zechariah was to ask the people of the land and the priests why they had fasted.  Why did they not eat or drink?  Did they do if for themselves or for Yahweh?  Yahweh had warned them, via the prophets, when Jerusalem was prosperous and inhabited.  The towns around Jerusalem, as well as desert Negeb and the low land Shephelah were inhabited at that time also.

The Lebanon lamentation (Jer 22:20-22:23)

“Go up to Lebanon!

Cry out!

Lift up your voice

On Bashan!

Cry out

From Abarim!

All your lovers

Are crushed!

I spoke to you

In your prosperity.

But you said.

‘I will not listen.’

This has been your way

From your youth.

You have not obeyed

My voice.

The wind shall shepherd

All your shepherds.

Your lovers shall go

Into captivity.

Then you will be ashamed.

You will be dismayed

Because of all your wickedness.

O inhabitant of Lebanon!

Nested among the cedars!

How you will groan

When pangs come upon you!

You will have the pain

Of a woman in labor!”

Apparently, Jeremiah wanted the people in the high mountains of Lebanon, on the Bashan mountains in the south, as well as on the Abarim mountains in the north to cry out for their lost lovers. These would have been the various allies that they thought that they had, but were now all crushed. The prosperous people had not listened or obeyed Yahweh from their youth. Their shepherd leaders and their lover friends will all be sent into captivity, ashamed and dismayed because of their wickedness. The people of Lebanon, those living among the built cedars in the palace, will feel the pain of a woman in labor about to give birth.

Strangers at work (Isa 61:5-61:5)

“Strangers shall stand.

They shall feed your flocks.

Foreigners shall till your land.

They will dress your vines.”

In an odd assertion, it seems that strangers or foreigners would do the menial work for the Israelites. These strangers would be the shepherds of the flocks in the field. They would do the field labor of tilling the land and clipping the grape vines. It seems that the Israelites would be so prosperous that they could hire people or have slaves do the things that they did not want to do.

Death (Sir 41:1-41:4)

“O death!

How bitter is the thought of you!

Death is bitter to those

Who live at peace

Among their possessions!

Death is bitter to those

Who have nothing to worry about!

Death is bitter to those

Who are prosperous in everything!

Death is bitter to those

Who still are vigorous enough

To enjoy food!

O death!

How welcome is your sentence?

Death is welcome to those

Who are failing in strength!

Death is welcome to those

Who are worn down by age!

Death is welcome to those

Who are anxious about everything!

Death is welcome to those

Who are contrary!

Death is welcome to those

Who have lost all patience!

Do not fear death’s decree for you!

Remember those who went before you!

Remember those who will come after you!

This is the Lord’s decree for all flesh.

Why then should you reject

The will of the Most High?

Whether life lasts

For ten years,

Or a hundred years,

Or a thousand years,

There are no questions asked

In Hades.”

Sirach has a poem about death. The thought of death is bitter to those who are doing well with a lot of possessions. They are prosperous, without worry, and vigorous enough to enjoy foods. On the other hand, the thought of death is welcomed by those who are not doing as well, the needy, the old, the contrary, those with failing strength, those anxious about everything, and those who have lost all patience. Remember that everybody before you and after you will die also. It does not matter how long your life is, in Hades they do not care if you lived 10 years, or a 100 years or a 1,000 years. It is death, plain and simple.

Wisdom is the best (Sir 40:18-40:21)

“Wealth makes life sweet.

Wages makes life sweet.

But better than either is

The one who finds wisdom.

Children establish one’s name.

Building a city establishes one’s name.

Better than either is

The one who finds wisdom.

Cattle make one prosperous.

Orchards make one prosperous.

But a blameless wife is

Accounted better than either.

Wine gladdens the heart.

Music gladdens the heart.

But the love of wisdom is

Better than either.”

Sirach makes a lot of comparisons in these proverbs. No matter what, wisdom is always better than anything else. It is the best. Certainly having wealth and wages make life sweet. However, finding wisdom is sweeter than both of them. Having children and building a city will establish your name, but the one who finds wisdom is better established. Having cattle and orchards can make you prosperous, but a blameless wife is better than either of them. She is like wisdom. Finally, wine and music gladden the heart, but the love of wisdom is a better heart warmer than either wine or music.

The problems of surety (Sir 29:14-29:20)

“A good person

Will be surety

For his neighbor.

But the one who has lost

All sense of shame

Will fail him.

Do not forget

The kindness of your guarantor.

He has given his life for you.

A sinner wastes

The property of his guarantor.

The ungrateful person

Abandons his rescuer.

Being surety

Has ruined many

Who were prosperous.

It has tossed them about

Like waves on the sea.

It has driven the influential

Into exile.

They have wandered

Among foreign nations.

The sinner comes to grief

Through surety.

His pursuit of gain

Involves him in lawsuits.

Assist your neighbor

To the best of your ability.

But be careful

Not to fall yourself.”

Surety is guaranteeing of a loan or the collateral for a loan. Obviously, a good kind person will guarantee a loan for his neighbor. However, there are shameful people out there who will take advantage of this generous guarantee. A sinner and an ungrateful person will waste this guarantee. They will abandon their rescuer. Sirach says that guaranteeing loans for others has led many a prosperous person to be ruined and tossed about like waves on the sea. Some have been exiled and wander from country to country. Quite often the sinner and his actions lead to law suits. Sirach then ends with this cautionary note that you should try to help your neighbor as much as possible, but be careful and not fall yourself.