These twelve apostles were for the Jews (Mt 10:5-10:7)

“Jesus sent out

These twelve,

With the following instructions.

‘Go nowhere

Among the Gentiles!

Enter no town

Of the Samaritans!

But go rather

To the lost sheep

Of the house of Israel!

Preach as you go!

Saying,

‘The kingdom of heaven

Is at hand.’”

 

Τούτους τοὺς δώδεκα ἀπέστειλεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς παραγγείλας αὐτοῖς λέγων Εἰς ὁδὸν ἐθνῶν μὴ ἀπέλθητε καὶ εἰς πόλιν Σαμαρειτῶν μὴ εἰσέλθητε·

πορεύεσθε δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ

πορευόμενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ὅτι Ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

 

There is no exact equivalent to this exclusive mission to the Jews, that this is unique to Matthew.  Jesus sent out these 12 apostles (Τούτους τοὺς δώδεκα ἀπέστειλεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς).  He commanded them with specific instructions (παραγγείλας αὐτοῖς λέγων).  They were to stay away from the gentiles (Εἰς ὁδὸν ἐθνῶν μὴ ἀπέλθητε).  They were not allowed to enter any Samaritan town either (καὶ εἰς πόλιν Σαμαρειτῶν μὴ εἰσέλθητε).  Thus, they had to stay away from the gentiles and the Samaritans.  Their mission, however, was to go to the lost sheep in the house of Israel (πορεύεσθε δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ).  They were to go and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (πορευόμενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ὅτι Ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν).  This is exactly the same teaching as John the Baptist, word for word, as in chapter 3:2.  Matthew had John say that the kingdom of heaven (γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) was at hand, coming near (ἤγγικεν).  Notice that Matthew did not say the kingdom of God, but the kingdom of heaven.  In fact, it is in the plural, heavens.  This connection of the message of John and Jesus is very strong here in Matthew.

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No more happiness (Jer 16:8-16:9)

“‘You shall not go

Into the house of feasting

To sit with them,

To eat with them,

To drink with them.’

Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

‘I am going to banish

From this place,

Before your eyes,

In your days,

The voice of mirth.

I will banish

The voice of gladness.

I will banish

The voice of the bridegroom.

I will banish

The voice of the bride.’”

Yahweh, the God of Israel, told Jeremiah that he should stay away from any place that was feasting and celebrating. He should not sit, eat, or drink with these merrymakers. They were going to be banished from Judah and Jerusalem. No longer would there be the voice of mirth or gladness in his days. In fact, the voice of the bride and bridegroom would be banished also, hinting at no more weddings.

Begging (Sir 40:28-40:30)

“My child!

Do not lead

The life of a beggar!

It is better to die

Than to beg.

When one looks

To the table of another,

One’s way of life

Cannot be considered a life.

One loses self-respect

With another person’s food.

One who is intelligent,

One who is well instructed

Guards against that.

In the mouth of the shameless

Begging is sweet.

But it kindles

a fire inside him.”

Sirach has a very strong condemnation of begging. He clearly says with very strong words that it is better to die than to beg. He did not want anyone to take up the life of a beggar. Yet he was very strong on almsgiving. If you have to continually eat at someone’s table, he does not consider that to be a worthwhile existence. You lose your self-respect, if you have to eat another person’s food. The intelligent and instructed ones guard against begging. Only the shameless think that begging is a sweet thing to do. However, their begging will lead to a kindling fire in their stomachs. Stay away from beggars. Usually the biblical writers talk about compassion for those in need, but not here.

Law and sacrifice (Sir 35:1-35:5)

“Whoever keeps the law,

Makes many offerings.

Whoever heeds the commandments

Makes an offering of well-being.

Whoever returns a kindness

Offers choice fine flour.

Whoever gives alms

Sacrifices a thank offering.

To keep from wickedness

Is pleasing to the Lord.

To forsake unrighteousness

Is atonement.”

Sirach reminds us of the connection between keeping the law and offering the sacrificial rites. If you keep the law, you are like offering many sacrifices. If you keep the commandments, you are making the equivalent of a well-being or peace offering. When you return a kindness to someone, offer them the choice flour. If you give alms, you are like making a thanksgiving sacrifice. Whenever you keep from wickedness, you are pleasing to the Lord. When you stay away from unrighteousness, you are making an atonement for your sins. Keeping the law is like offering sacrifices.

Conversations among fools (Sir 27:11-27:15)

“The conversation of the godly

Is always wise.

But the fool changes

Like the moon.

Among stupid people,

Limit your time.

But among thoughtful people

Linger on.

The talk of fools

Is offensive.

Their laughter

Is wantonly sinful.

Their cursing or swearing

Makes one’s hair stand on end.

Their quarrels make

Others stop their ears.

The strife of the proud

Leads to bloodshed.

Their abuse

Is grievous to hear.”

Sirach talks about the conversations of fools. Certainly, the conversations of the godly are always wise. However, the fools change their mind like the changes in the moon. You should stay away from stupid people, but linger with thoughtful people. If you listen to the talk of fools, you will see that it is offensive, with their random sinful cursing and swearing that will make your hair stand on end. You should not listen to their quarrels. The arguments of these proud fools will lead to bloodshed. It is very difficult to listen to these foolish conversations.

Instructions for men concerning women (Sir 9:1-9:9)

“Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom!

You will teach her an evil lesson

To your own hurt.

Do not give yourself to a woman!

Do not let her trample down your strength!

Do not go near a loose woman!

You will fall into her snares.

Do not associate with a singing girl!

You will be caught by her tricks.

Do not look intently at a virgin!

You may stumble.

You may incur penalties for her.

Do not give yourself to prostitutes!

You may lose your inheritance.

Do not look around in the streets of a city!

Do not wander about in its deserted sections!

Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman!

Do not gaze at beauty belonging to another!

Many have been seduced by a woman’s beauty.

By beauty

Passion is kindled

Like a fire.

Never dine with another man’s wife!

Never revel with her at wine!

Your heart may turn aside to her.

In blood,

You may be plunged into destruction.”

In a series of reprimands for men concerning women, Sirach says that men should not be jealous of their wife. Your jealousy might teach her an evil lesson that you might regret since she might be jealous of you. Do not let women take away your strength. Stay away from loose women and singing women because they might trick you. Don’t stare at virgins. Obviously, don’t go to prostitutes because you could lose all your money. Do not go wandering around deserted parts of the city. Don’t let your eyes be caught looking at a beautiful shapely women. Beauty quickly seduces into passion. Don’t eat or drink with another man’s wife. Your heart could turn towards her. You might be plunged into destruction. Thus we see the proper and improper conduct of men towards women in the 2nd century BCE.

Wise sayings (Sir 7:1-7:3)

“Do no evil!

Then evil will never overtake you.

Stay away from wrong!

Then it will turn away from you.

My child!

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.