The interpretation of the four great beasts (Dan 7:16-7:18)

“I approached

One of the attendants

To ask him

The truth

Concerning all this.

So,

He said

That he would disclose

To me.

The interpretation

Of the matter.

‘As for these four great beasts,

Four kings

Shall arise

Out of the earth.

But the holy ones

Of the Most High God

Shall receive the kingdom.

They shall possess

The kingdom forever,

Forever and ever.’”

In a strange way, Daniel approached one of the people in his dream or vision to ask for an interpretation of his dream. In fact, it seems to be just one of the attendants standing around there. Daniel wanted to know the truth and the interpretation about these 4 beasts. Then, this attendant told him that the 4 beasts were 4 kings that rose up and ruled. However, the holy ones of the Most High God got possession of the kingdom. They were then going to have possession of this kingdom forever. It was not clear whether the other 4 kings had ruled this same kingdom or other kingdoms.

The judgment at the border (Ezek 11:10-11:12)

“You shall fall

By the sword.

I will judge you

At the border of Israel.

You shall know

That I am Yahweh.

This city shall not

Be your pot.

You shall not

Be the meat inside it.

I will judge you

At the border of Israel.

Then you shall know

That I am Yahweh.

You have not followed

My statutes.

You have not kept

My ordinances.

But you have acted

According to the ordinances

Of the nations

That are around you.”

Yahweh was going to judge them at the border of Israel. They would die by the sword if they were not captured. They all would know that he was Yahweh, since that was repeated twice in this short section. They would no longer be the meat in the pot in Jerusalem. The judgment at the border was because they had not followed and kept Yahweh’s statutes and ordinances. Instead, they had followed the ordinances of the countries around them. This seems strange but true.

Why the Rechabites moved to Jerusalem (Jer 35:11-35:11)

“But when King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Came up against the land,

We said.

‘Come!

Let us go to Jerusalem!

They feared

The army of the Chaldeans.

They feared

The army of the Arameans.’

This is why

We are living in Jerusalem.”

How then did they end up in the city of Jerusalem? Their explanation was simple. With the coming of King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BCE) of Babylon, they moved to safety in or around Jerusalem. They feared for their lives because of the Babylonian invasion with their Chaldean and Aramean troops. Thus they took refuge in Jerusalem. Obviously, they were a little out of place there with their strange life style ways.

The role of the Temple (Jer 7:3-7:4)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

Amend your ways!

Amend your doings!

Let me dwell with you

In this place.

Do not trust

In these deceptive words.

‘This is the temple of Yahweh!

The temple of Yahweh!

The temple of Yahweh.’”

The first part of this pericope sounds like the many other times that Yahweh had spoken to his people. He was the God of Israel with his hosts. The Temple visitors were to amend their ways and what they were doing. Yahweh wanted to dwell with them in his Temple. However, the second verse is a little strange. Yahweh told Jeremiah not to trust the deceptive words about the Temple of Yahweh. In fact, the statement is mentioned 3 times, “Temple of Yahweh”. Was this a reminder to enter the Temple 3 times a day? Was this against the false prophets who told them not to worry, since as long as they had the Temple everything would be fine? Is it a rebuke to those who just loved the majesty and beauty of the Temple? This triple cry about the Temple of Yahweh as deceptive words is not really clear.

The sign of the sundial (Isa 38:7-38:8)

“Isaiah said.

‘This is the sign to you

From Yahweh.

Yahweh will do this thing

That he has promised.

See!

I will make the shadow

Cast by the declining sun

On the dial of Ahaz

Turn back ten steps.’

So the sun turned back

On the dial

The ten steps

By which it had declined.”

This passage seems out of place here, since the healing of King Hezekiah is at the end of this chapter. This backwards moving of the sundial is the sign that Isaiah was to give to King Hezekiah. Instead of Isaiah crying out, this is an abbreviated version of what appeared to 2 Kings, chapter 20, with just the simple statement of Isaiah. This sundial had been installed by King Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz (736-716 BCE). Since moving forward would not be difficult and was normal. However, if the shadow moved backward, that would be a strange. Thus the sundial moved back 10 intervals, indicating that the sun had moved backwards, which would have been miraculous. If they only knew that the earth was moving and not the sun, they would have been even more astonished.

The seas (Sir 43:23-43:26)

“By the Lord’s plan,

He stilled the great deep sea.

He planted islands in it.

Those who sail the sea

Tell of its dangers.

We marvel at

What we hear.

In the sea

Are strange creatures.

In the sea

Are marvelous works.

There are

All kinds of living things.

There are

Huge sea-monsters.

Because of him,

Each of his messengers succeeds.

By his word

All things hold together.”

Next Sirach explains how the Lord controls and stills the seas. The Lord planted the islands in these seas. Many sailors tell of their dangerous adventures on the high seas, mostly on the Mediterranean Sea. Within these waters, there are many strange and marvelous creatures. Among the many living things in the sea are the sea monsters, in particular Leviathan that played a major role in biblical stories, particularly in the book of Job, chapter 41. All these things stay together because of the power of the Lord.

A good and a bad city (Sir 16:4-16:5)

“Through one intelligent person,

A city can be filled with people.

But through a clan of outlaws,

A city becomes desolate.

Many such things

My eye has seen.

My ear has heard things

More striking than these.”

One intelligent person can help to populate a whole city. On the other hand, a gang of outlaws can lead to a desolate city. Sirach’s eyes and ears have seen and heard many strange and striking things.