Freedom for Jeremiah (Jer 40:2-40:4)

“The captain of the guard

Took Jeremiah.

He said to him.

‘Yahweh your God

Threatened this place

With this disaster.

Now Yahweh

Has brought it about.

He has done

As he said.

Because all of you

Sinned against Yahweh.

You did not obey his voice.

Therefore this thing

Has come upon you.

Now look!

I have just released you today

From the fetters

On your hands.

If you wish

To come with me

To Babylon,

Come!

I will take good care of you.

But if you do not wish

To come with me

To Babylon,

You need not come!

See!

The whole land is before you.

Go wherever

You think it good

Or right to go!’”

Jeremiah is finally recognized by Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who took him aside. He said to Jeremiah that his God Yahweh had threatened this place and made that threat come true. This happened because they were sinning in Jerusalem and Judah. They had not obeyed their God. This Babylonian captain then released Jeremiah from the chains around his hands. Here is where it gets interesting. He offers Jeremiah a choice. He could go to Babylon, where he would be taken care of, or he could stay in Judah, where the whole land would be his. The captain of the guard told Jeremiah to decide on what was right and good for him. The choice was up to Jeremiah, but it seemed obvious that Jeremiah would stay.

Do not listen to false predictions (Jer 27:9-27:11)

“‘Therefore

You must not listen

To your prophets,

To your diviners,

To your dreamers,

To your soothsayers,

To your sorcerers.

If they are saying to you.

‘You shall not serve

The king of Babylon.’

They are prophesying

A lie to you.

The result will be

That you will be removed

Far from your land.

I will drive you out.

You will perish. But any nation

That will bring its neck

Under the yoke

Of the king of Babylon,

Thus serve him,

I will leave on its own land.

They will till it.

They will live there.’

Says Yahweh.”

Jeremiah has an oracle of Yahweh about the false prophets who are telling the people not to obey the king of Babylon. Whether it is a prophet, a diviner, a dreamer, a soothsayer, or a sorcerer, who tell them not to serve the king of Babylon, they are prophesying lies. If they listened to these liars, Yahweh was going to drive them out of their land, so that they would perish. However, if any country was to put on the yoke of Babylon and serve its king, Yahweh was going to let them stay on their own land, live there, and till the soil. There is no doubt that Yahweh was on the side of the King of Babylon, as presented here.

 

No foreigners would eat or drink in Jerusalem (Isa 62:8-62:9)

“Yahweh has sworn

By his right hand,

By his mighty arm.

‘I will not again give your grain

To be food for your enemies.

Foreigners shall not drink the wine

For which you have labored.

But those who garner it

Shall eat it.

They shall praise Yahweh.

Those who garner it

Shall drink it

In my holy courts.’”

Yahweh now contends that no foreigners will eat or drink from the labor of those in Jerusalem. Yahweh has sworn by his mighty right hand that the grain harvested there will stay there, not be given to enemies. These foreign enemies will not drink the wine that was developed in Jerusalem. Instead the locals will gather the grapes and drink the wine in the holy courts at Jerusalem.

The return from the Exile (Isa 14:1-14:2)

“Yahweh will have compassion

On Jacob.

He will again choose Israel.

He will set them

In their own land.

Aliens will join them.

They will attach themselves

To the house of Jacob.

The nations will take them.

They will bring them

To their place.

The house of Israel

Will possess these nations,

As male and female slaves,

In Yahweh’s land.

They will take captive

Those who were their captors.

They will rule over

Those who oppressed them.”

Obviously this oracle assumes that the Israelites were in Exile, which did not happen during the life of Isaiah. Yahweh was going to have compassion on Jacob, the Israelites. He was going to set them in their own land with the help of other nations. Other non-Israelites would join them, the so called aliens or strangers. Then the house of Israel would have its own male and female slaves from the other countries. In fact, their former captors would become their captives. Thus they would rule over those who oppressed them. I am not so sure whether this last part ever happened. They were allowed to have slaves and other countries helped them. Those aliens in Israel would have to follow the Israelite law if they wanted to stay in Israel.

Stay with your own kind (Sir 13:15-13:20)

“Every creature loves its like.

Every person loves his neighbor.

All living beings associate

With their own kind.

People stick close to those

Like themselves.

What does a wolf have in common

With a lamb?

No more has a sinner anything in common

With the devout.

What peace is there

Between a hyena and a dog?

What peace is there

Between the rich and the poor?

Wild asses in the wilderness

Are the prey of lions.

Likewise the poor

Are feeding grounds for the rich.

Humility is an abomination

To the proud.

Likewise the poor are an abomination

To the rich.”

Sirach tells us that people and creatures like to stick with their own kind. There is a natural born prejudice to stay with your own kind of people. Everybody usually loves their neighbors. Why else would they live there? A wolf and a lamb have nothing in common, just like the sinner and the devout do not have anything in common. There can never be peace between hyenas and dogs, so too the animosity between rich and poor cannot be bridged. Wild donkeys are the prey of lions, so too are the poor the feeding grounds of the rich. The rich take advantage of the poor. The proud hate the humble, just like the rich hate the poor.

Trust in the Lord (Sir 11:20-11:22)

“Stand by your agreement!

Attend to it! Grow old in your work! Do not wonder

At the works of a sinner! Trust in the Lord!

Keep at your job!

It is easy in the sight of the Lord

To suddenly make

The poor become rich,

In an instant.

The blessing of the Lord

Is the reward of the pious.

Quickly God causes his blessings to flourish.”

You should trust in the Lord. Keep and attend to your agreements. Grow old at your work. Stay at your job. Do not wonder about the works of sinners. The Lord can make a poor man rich instantaneously. The blessing of the Lord is the reward for the pious ones. He can make his blessings flourish.

The will of God (Wis 9:13-9:18)

“Who can learn the counsel of God?

Who can discern what the Lord wills?

The reasoning of mortals is worthless.

Our designs are likely to fail.

A perishable body weighs down the soul.

This earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.

We can hardly guess at what is on earth.

What is at hand

We find with labor.

But who has traced out

What is in the heavens?

Who has learned your counsel,

Unless you have given wisdom?

You sent your Holy Spirit from on high.

Thus the paths of those on earth

Were set right.

People were taught

What pleases you.

They were saved by wisdom.”

What is the will of the Lord (θέλει ὁ Κύριος)? How can you have counsel with God (βουλὴν Θεοῦ)? What man is able to know (ἄνθρωπος γνώσετα) these things because human reasoning is worthless? By our own designs we are likely to fail. Then we have the Platonic thought about how our perishable body (σῶμα) weighs down our souls (ψυχήν) as our earthly tent holds back our minds. We can only guess what is going on even when we work hard here on earth (γῆς). We have no idea what is going on in heaven (οὐρανοῖς). The only way that we know anything is with the counsel and the wisdom (σοφίαν) that your Holy Spirit (τὸ ἅγιόν σου πνεῦμα) gives to us. Here is a clear rare explicit mention of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament books. This is the only way that we can stay on the right path. We are saved by wisdom (τῇ σοφίᾳ).

Seek God (Wis 1:1-1:5)

“Love righteousness!

You rulers of the earth!

Think of the Lord in goodness!

Seek him with sincerity of heart!

Because he is found

By those who do not put him to the test.

He manifests himself

To those who do not distrust him.

Perverse thoughts separate people from God.

When his power is tested,

It exposes the foolish.

Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul.

Wisdom will not dwell in a body enslaved to sin.

A Holy Spirit will flee from deceit.

A disciplined spirit will flee from deceit.

The Spirit will leave foolish thoughts behind.

The Spirit will be ashamed

At the approach of unrighteousness.”

This book is set in poetic verses just like Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Solomon. This author wants the rulers of the earth to seek God with a sincere heart. Only those who are not testing him will find him. God will manifest himself to those who do not distrust him. Perverse thoughts will separate them from God. If they test his power, he will expose their foolishness. Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul nor dwell in a body enslaved in sin. The Holy Spirit, who is disciplined, will flee from deceit. He will leave foolish thoughts behind because he is ashamed of the approach of the unrighteousness ones. Here we have a more developed theology of God. He is no longer Yahweh since this is a Greek Septuagint work. He is the Greek Lord (τοῦ Κυρίου). Wisdom (σοφία) is almost equivalent to God (Θεοῦ). Notice also the use of the Holy Spirit (ἅγιον γὰρ πνεῦμα), even if not too specific. The Spirit of God will not stay with the deceitful and unrighteous. The concept of soul (ψυχὴν) also fits in nicely. I will be using the Greek Septuagint to highlight certain words and concepts in this Greek work.

Fear of Yahweh (Prov 19:23-19:25)

“The fear of Yahweh is life indeed.

Filled with the fear of Yahweh,

One rests secure.

Filled with the fear of Yahweh,

One suffers no harm.

The lazy person buries a hand in the dish.

He will not even bring it back to the mouth.

Strike a scoffer.

The simple will learn prudence.

Reprove the intelligent.

They will gain knowledge.”

The fear of God is life itself. If you fear Yahweh, you will always be secure and suffer no harm. Some people are so lazy they do not even feed themselves, but let her hands stay on the dish buried in their food. The simple can learn prudence. The intelligent can gain knowledge. Everything stems from the fear of Yahweh.

The lips of the righteous (Prov 10:30-10:32)

“The righteous will never be removed.

But the wicked will not remain in the land.

The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom.

But the perverse tongue will be cut off.

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable.

But the mouths of the wicked know what is perverse.”

The righteous will never be removed from the land, while the wicked will not stay on the land. The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom. The tongue of the wicked, on the other hand, will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable. while the wicked only know perversity.