Do not tempt people (Mt 18:7-18:7)

“Woe to the world

Because of stumbling blocks!

Occasions for stumbling

Are bound to come.

Woe to the person

By whom

The stumbling block comes!”

 

Οὐαὶ τῷ κόσμῳ ἀπὸ τῶν σκανδάλων· ἀνάγκη γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τὰ σκάνδαλα, πλὴν οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ δι’ οὗ τὸ σκάνδαλον ἔρχεται.

 

This saying about temptations and stumbling blocks is unique to Matthew.  However, it is a follow up to the preceding verses.  The world is cursed (Οὐαὶ τῷ κόσμῳ) because of these stumbling blocks, snares, or temptations (ἀπὸ τῶν σκανδάλων).  These snares, stumbling blocks, or temptations are necessarily bound to happen (ἀνάγκη γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τὰ σκάνδαλα,).  However cursed is the man or person (, πλὴν οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ) by whom these stumbling blocks or temptations come (δι’ οὗ τὸ σκάνδαλον ἔρχεται).  Temptations and snares are to be cursed.  But also, the humans or people who bring these temptations, snares, stumbling blocks should also be cursed.

Punishment for the weeds at the harvest end times (Mt 13:41-13:42)

“The Son of Man

Will send his angels.

They will collect out

Of his kingdom

All causes of sin

And all evildoers.

They will throw them

Into the furnace of fire.

There will be weeping

And gnashing of teeth.”

 

ἀποστελεῖ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ, καὶ συλλέξουσιν ἐκ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ σκάνδαλα καὶ τοὺς ποιοῦντας τὴν ἀνομίαν,

καὶ βαλοῦσιν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν κάμινον τοῦ πυρός· ἐκεῖ ἔσται ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων.

 

Only Matthew has this explanation about the parable of the weeds, in chapter 13:24-30.  Here it is the harvest time, the end times, when the Son of Man would send out his angel reapers or messengers (ἀποστελεῖ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ).  These angels or harvesters would collect and gather out of his kingdom (καὶ συλλέξουσιν ἐκ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ) all the snares or causes of sin (πάντα τὰ σκάνδαλα), the sinners, and those practicing unlawfulness (καὶ τοὺς ποιοῦντας τὴν ἀνομίαν), the evil ones.  Then these angel reapers would burn them like the weeds in the parable.  They would throw them into the furnace of fire (καὶ βαλοῦσιν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν κάμινον τοῦ πυρός), where there would be weeping or lamenting and gnashing or grinding of teeth (ἐκεῖ ἔσται ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων).  This later was the normal form of mourning or behavior of those who were upset or frustrated.  The evil weeds would be allowed to grow with the good grain until the end times of the harvest.  However, the evil weeds or the evil doers would suffer in fire and frustration as their final reward at the harvest end times.

The role of the prophet (Hos 9:8-9:9)

“The prophet is

A sentinel

For my God

Over Ephraim.

Yet a fowler’s snare

Is on all his ways.

Hostility is

In the house

Of his God.

They have deeply

Corrupted themselves,

As in the days of Gibeah.

He will remember

Their iniquity.

He will punish

Their sins.’”

Hosea said that the prophet should be a sentinel or watchman for God over the territory of Ephraim. However, the bird hunter or fowler had set snares for them. There was so much hostility in the house of God. They simply corrupted themselves too much. It was like in the days of Gibeah, as found in the situation over the concubine at Gibeah, in Judges, chapters 19-21. Then Hosea repeated what he had said in the preceding chapter that Yahweh would remember their iniquity, so that he would punish them for their sins.

The terror in Moab (Jer 48:43-48:46)

“‘Terror!

Pit!

Trap!

They are before you!

O inhabitants of Moab!’

Says Yahweh.

‘Everyone

Who flees from the terror

Shall fall into the pit.

Everyone who climbs

Out of the pit

Shall be caught in the trap.

I will bring these things

Upon Moab,

In the year of their punishment.’

Says Yahweh.

In the shadow of Heshbon,

Fugitives stop exhausted.

A fire has gone out

From Heshbon,

A flame from

The house of Sihon.

It has destroyed

The forehead of Moab,

The scalp of the people

Of tumult.

Woe to you!

O Moab!

The people of Chemosh

Have perished.

Your sons

Have been taken captive.

Your daughters

Have been taken into captivity.”

There would be terror to hit Moab, like the terror of the apocalypse judgment day of Isaiah, chapter 24. Terror was all around with pits and snares to catch people. If they fled, they would fall into a pit. Even if they crawled out of the pit, they would be caught in a trap. There was no escape. They tried to flee to Heshbon, the capital of Ammon, the country north of Moab. However, they were surprised to learn that Heshbon was also on fire. This was the capital city of King Sihon, or house of Sihon, dating back to the days of Joshua, chapter 21. The Moabites would have problems with their foreheads and scalps. They would be cursed, and then perish. The people with their god Chemosh would lose their sons and daughters to captivity.

The vicious request of Jeremiah (Jer 18:21-18:23)

“Therefore give their children

Over to famine!

Hurl them out

To the power of the sword!

Let their wives become childless!

Let their wives become widowed!

May their men meet death

By pestilence!

May their youths be slain

By the sword in battle!

May a cry be heard

From their houses,

When you bring the marauder

Suddenly upon them.

They have dug a pit

To catch me.

They laid snares

For my feet.

Yet you!

Yahweh!

Know all their plotting

To kill me.

Do not forgive their iniquity!

Do not blot out their sin

From your sight!

Let them be tripped up before you!

Deal with them

While you are angry!”

Jeremiah does not hold back his contempt for his adversaries. He is vicious in this lament to Yahweh. First, he wanted their children to die whether by famine or by the sword. He wanted their wives to be childless and widows. He hoped that they might die from a pestilence. He wanted their young men killed in battle. He wanted a marauder to suddenly attack them. They had plotted to catch him and kill him in a pit, as they laid snares for his feet. He told Yahweh not to forgive their iniquity, not to blot out their sins. They should be tripped up. He wanted Yahweh to deal with them while he was angry, so that they would receive a worse sentence. There was no sense of Jeremiah’s mercy or compassion here. He wanted his enemies completely destroyed.

Accursed false idol worship (Wis 14:8-14:11)

“But the idol made with hands is accursed.

So too the one who made it. Having made it,

The perishable thing was named a god.

Equally hateful to God

Are the ungodly man

With their ungodliness.

What was done

Will be punished together

With the one who did it.

Therefore there will be a visitation

Also upon the heathen idols.

Because,

Though part of what God created,

They became an abomination.

They became snares for human souls.

They became a trap to the feet of the foolish.”

Now here is a stinging rebuke of idols and their makers. Both the ungodly idol and the ungodly ones (ὁ ἀσεβῶν) who made it were accursed by God. They were making, calling, and naming these idols gods (θεὸς ὠνομάσθη). They and their idols both would be punished together. Although they are a good part of God’s creation (ἐν κτίσματι Θεοῦ), these idols (εἰδώλοις) have become an abomination or a scandal since they set snares and traps for foolish human souls (σκάνδαλα ψυχαῖς ἀνθρώπων).

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.