The beautiful prayer of Daniel (Dan 2:20-2:23)

“Daniel said.

‘Blessed be the name

Of God

From age to age!

Wisdom

With power

Is his.

He changes times.

He changes seasons.

He deposes kings.

He sets up kings.

He gives wisdom

To the wise.

He gives knowledge

To those who have understanding.

He reveals deep things.

He reveals hidden things.

He knows

What is in the darkness.

The light dwells

With him.

To you!

O God of my ancestors!

I give thanks!

I give praise!

You have given me

Wisdom.

You have given me

Power.

You have revealed

To me

What we asked of you.

You have revealed

To us

What the king ordered.’”

Daniel has this beautiful prayer to the name of the eternal God, who has wisdom and power. God changes times and seasons. He sets up and deposes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise. He gives knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things. He is the light in the darkness. Daniel then gave thanks and praise to the God of his ancestors, who has given him wisdom and power, when he revealed what the king had asked for.

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The punishment (Jer 9:10-9:11)

“Take up weeping!

Wail for the mountains!

Take up a lamentation

For the pastures of the wilderness!

Because they are laid waste,

Thus no one passes through.

The lowing of cattle is not heard.

The birds of the air

Have fled.

The animals are gone.

I will make Jerusalem

A heap of ruins.

I will make it

A lair of jackals.

I will make the towns of Judah

A desolation without inhabitants.”

Now Yahweh reveals his punishment but he laments doing it. He wants them to cry and weep for the mountains and the pastures because they were going to become a wasteland. They will not hear the cattle, the birds, or other animals because they will have gone and fled away. Jerusalem will be a ruined heap and a home for jackals, while the towns of Judah will become desolate towns without anyone living there.

The call of Cyrus to fight against the Babylonians (Isa 48:14-48:16)

“Assemble!

All of you!

Hear!

Who among them has declared these things?

Yahweh loves him.

He shall perform his purpose on Babylon.

His arm shall be against the Chaldeans.

I!

Even I have spoken!

I called him!

I have brought him!

He will prosper in his way.

Draw near to me!

Hear this!

From the beginning,

I have not spoken in secret.

From the time it came to be,

I have been there.            

‘Yahweh God has sent me.

He has sent his Spirit.’”

Second Isaiah reveals the new things to happen. Once again, everyone had to assemble and listen to what Yahweh had to say. Thus Yahweh declared that he loved Cyrus who was about to attack Babylon and use his arm against these Chaldeans. Yahweh clearly says that he has called him, but Cyrus will prosper in his own way. Yahweh wanted the Israelites to know that he had not spoken in secret, since he has always existed. Apparently Cyrus, without explicitly mentioning him by name, responded saying that Yahweh had sent his Spirit to him.

The test of human speech (Sir 27:4-27:7)

“When a sieve is shaken,

The refuse remains.

Thus a person’s faults appear

When he speaks.

The kiln tests

The potter’s vessels.

Thus the test of a person

Is in his conversation.

The fruit discloses

The cultivation of a tree.

Thus a person’s speech

Discloses the cultivation of his mind.

Do not praise anyone

Before he speaks.

This is the way people are tested.”

When cooking, people often use a sieve to only let the good grains go through. So when a sieve is shaken, the refuse remains. In the same way, when a person speaks, their faults appear. Just as a potter’s work is finished or tested in the furnace kiln, so too human conversation is a test. Just as the fruit of a tree reveals how well the tree was cultivated, so too a person’s speech reveals how his or her mind has been cultivated. Thus you should not praise anyone until they have spoken. Human conversation is how we test each other.

Wisdom is demanding (Sir 4:17-4:19)

“At first,

She will walk with them on tortuous paths.

She will bring fear upon them.

She will bring dread upon them.

She will torment them by her discipline,

Until she trusts them.

She will test them with her ordinances.

She will come straight back to them again.

She will gladden them.

She will reveal her secrets to them.

If they go astray,

She will forsake them.

She will hand them over to their ruin.”

Wisdom does not come easy. There are problems and demands. She will walk with them on dangerous paths as they will be filled with fear and dread. Her discipline will torment them until she finally trusts them. She will test them with various rules. In the end, she will return to them and gladden them, as she reveals her secrets to them. On the other hand, if they go astray and give up on her, she will bring ruin to them.

The dead Jewish soldiers were idolaters (2 Macc 12:39-12:42)

“On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas Maccabeus and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen. He wanted to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchres of their ancestors. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. It became clear to all that this was the reason that these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden. They turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas Maccabeus exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin. They had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen.”

This is one of the few passages where there seems to be respect for the fallen soldiers, other than the leaders. They went out to pick up the bodies of the dead Jewish fighters so that they could be put in the tomb of their ancestors. To their surprise, they found that all the dead Jewish fighters were wearing the sacred tokens of the idols from Jamnia. How and why they had these tokens was not clear. Of course, this was forbidden to all Jewish people. They then prayed that the sins of these fallen men might be blotted out. Judas Maccabeus reminded them to keep themselves from sin. They had seen with their own eyes what happened to sinners.