‘On that day,
I will answer
They shall answer
The earth shall answer
They shall answer
I will sow him
In the land.
I will have pity
I will say to
‘You are my people.’
He shall say.
‘You are my God.’”
Yahweh was very clear. On that day, he was going to respond to the heavens, just as the heavens would respond to earth. The earth would respond to the grain, wine, and oil. They would answer to Jezreel, that had been the residence of the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. Yahweh was going to sow in the land itself. Finally, he would have pity and love for Lo-ruhamah, the not pitied one. He too would rename Lo-ammi, from not my people to you are my people. He was going to be their God. Thus, all would end well.
“Thus says Yahweh
To the people of Judah,
To the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
‘Break up your fallow ground!
Do not sow among thorns!
Circumcise yourselves to Yahweh!
Remove the foreskin of your hearts!
O people of Judah!
Inhabitants of Jerusalem!
Otherwise my wrath will go forth like fire.
My wrath will burn with no one to quench it,
Because of the evil of your doings.’”
Yahweh, via Jeremiah, has a call to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They were to work their uncultivated lands. They were not to sow seeds among the thorns. They were to circumcise themselves to Yahweh by removing the foreskins on their hearts. The call to Judah and Jerusalem was clear. If they did not listen, the wrath of Yahweh would go forth against them like a roaring unquenchable burning fire, because of their evil deeds.
“This shall be the sign for you.
Eat what grows of itself!
In the second year,
Eat what springs from that!
Then in the third year,
Then eat their fruit!
The surviving remnant
Of the house of Judah
Shall again take root downward.
Then they will bear fruit upward.
A remnant shall go out.
From Mount Zion,
A band of survivors will go out.
The zeal of Yahweh of hosts
Will do this.”
Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19. Only a band of survivors, “the remnant” will carry on from Jerusalem. In a metaphor, the first 2 years they will only get what grows wild. However, in the 3rd year, they will plant and sow crops. Then they will eat and have some left over. This seems to indicate that the next few years will be difficult, but then it will get better in the 3rd year.
“Do those who plow for sowing plow continually?
Do they continually open their ground?
Do they continually harrow their ground?
When they have leveled its surface,
Do they not scatter dill herbs?
Do they not sow carrot seeds?
Do they not plant wheat in rows?
Do they not plant barley in its proper place?
Do they not plant spelt hardy wheat as the border?
They are well instructed.
Their God teaches them.”
Here is a story or parable about farmers asked in a series of questions. First, they had to plow the ground before the planting of seeds. They had to open and turn the land over by harrowing it. Then they leveled it out. After this, they were able to scatter some dill herbs and sow some carrot seeds. Then they properly put the wheat and barley in rows with hardy inferior spelt wheat as the border to their farms. How did they know how to do this? Well, God has instructed them on how to do this.
“Refrain from strife.
Your sins will be fewer.
The hot tempered kindle strife.
The sinner disrupts friendships.
The sinner sows discord
Among those who are at peace.
In proportion to the fuel,
So will the fire burn.
In proportion to the obstinacy,
So will strife increase.
In proportion to a person’s strength,
So will be his anger.
In proportion to his wealth,
So he will increase his wrath.
A hasty quarrel kindles a fire.
A hasty dispute sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark,
It will glow.
If you spit on it,
It will be put out.
Yet both come out of your mouth.”
Sirach reminds us of the problems with quarrels and arguments. If you refrain from conflicts, your sins will be less. Usually it is the hot tempered people who start disputes. Sinners disrupt friendships. They sow discord among peacemakers. Then Sirach has a number of proportional examples. The more fuel you have, the more the fire burns. The more stubborn you are, the more disagreements you create. The stronger you are, the more you will be angry. The more wealth that you have, the more fury you will have. Sometimes it is a hasty quarrel that starts a fire that leads to bloodshed. However, you have control with your mouth. You can either blow on the spark to increase the flame or spit on the spark to put it out. The choice is yours, spit or blow on the spark of a fire to increase or decrease the argument.
The bloom of your youth!
Do not give your strength
Seek a fertile field
Within the whole plain.
With your own seed.
Trust in your fine stock.
Your offspring will prosper.
In their good descent.
They will grow great.”
This section does not appear in some editions. Sirach wants you to remember your great youth. Do not give your strength to strangers. When you sow, you should use your own seed on a fertile plain. Apparently he is talking about producing children with sexual interactions. He then implies that you should trust your fine stock. You should have confidence that your offspring will prosper because they come from good descendants so that they will become great.
“Do no evil!
Then evil will never overtake you.
Stay away from wrong!
Then it will turn away from you.
Do not sow in the furrows of injustice!
Then you will not reap a sevenfold crop.”
Sirach then gives a short series of wise sayings. Avoid evil and sin. Then they will not overtake you. Stay away from wrong things. Then they will stay away from you. Do not sow your crops in unjust fields. If you do, there will be no reward for you.
From your youth,
When you have gray hair,
You will still find wisdom.
Come to her like one who plows.
Come to her like one who sows.
Wait for her good harvest.
When you cultivate her,
You will toil but little.
Soon you will eat of her produce.
She seems very harsh to the undisciplined.
Fools cannot remain with her.
She will be like a heavy stone to test them.
They will not delay in casting her aside.
Wisdom is like her name.
She is not really perceived by many.”
Once again, Sirach has a series of admonitions about wisdom. The young people should choose discipline. Even when they have gray hair, they should still seek wisdom. You have to have the discipline to plow and sow in order to get a good harvest of wisdom. You do not have to work too hard to eat of her products. However, this seems very harsh to the undisciplined since fools cannot remain with her. She seems to be a test like a heavy stone to these foolish undisciplined ones. The name of wisdom implies that only a few, not many people, will actually perceive her.
“Whoever observes the wind
Will not sow.
Whoever regards the clouds
Will not reap.
Just as you do not know
How the breath comes to the bones
In the mother’s womb,
So you do not know
The work of God
Who makes everything.
In the morning,
Sow your seed.
Do not let your hand be idle.
You do not know
Which will prosper,
This or that,
Whether both alike will be good.”
If you wait for the perfect wind or the perfect clouds, you will never sow or reap. You have no idea how breath comes to bones in a mother’s womb. So too you have no idea how crops grow. Qoheleth reminds us that God made everything. In the morning, you sow your seeds, but you should not be idle in the evening. You are not sure which seeds will prosper, this one, that one, or both, only God knows.
“Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse.
The cautious will keep far from them.
Train children in the right way.
Then when they are old,
They will not stray.
The rich rule over the poor.
The borrower is the slave of the lender.
Whoever sows injustice
Will reap calamity,
The rod of anger will fail.”
The way of the perverse is full of thorns and snares, so keep away from them. If you train children correctly, they will not stray when they are old. The rich will rule over the poor. The borrower becomes the slave of the lender. If you sow injustice, you will harvest calamity. Beatings in anger will fail.