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.

The fate of rulers (Sir 11:5-11:6)

“Many kings have had to sit on the ground.

But one who was never thought of has worn a crown.

Many rulers have been greatly disgraced.

The honored ones have been handed over to others.”

Many kings have had to sit on the ground. Then there have been some strange people who have worn the kingly crown. Some rulers have been disgraced. Even honored people have been handed over to others. There is no certainty in being a ruler.

Humility (Sir 10:28-10:31)

“My child!

Honor yourself with humility!

Give yourself the esteem

That you deserve!

Who will acquit

Those who condemn themselves?

Who will honor

Those who dishonor themselves?

The poor are honored

For their knowledge.

The rich are honored

For their wealth.

One honored in poverty,

How much more in wealth!

One dishonored in wealth,

How much more in poverty!”

Sirach has a strange sort of humility. You should be honored with your humility. You should have a good self esteem because you deserve it. Do not condemn or dishonor yourself. Poor people are honored with knowledge, but the rich are honored with wealth. The best would be a poor person with knowledge and wealth. The worst would be a wealthy person who becomes poor. This strange kind of humility relies on knowledge and wealth as a determining factor.

The annoying righteous one (Wis 2:12-2:16)

“‘Let us lie in wait

For the righteous man.

Because he is inconvenient to us.

He opposes our actions.

He reproaches us

For sins against the law.

He accuses us of sins

Against our training.

He professes to have knowledge of God.

He calls himself a child of the Lord.

He became to us a reproof of our thoughts.

The very sight of him is a burden to us.

Because his manner of life is

Unlike that of others.

His ways are strange.

We are considered by him

As something base.

He avoids our ways as unclean.

He calls the last end of the righteous happy.

He boasts that God is his father.’”

They are going to attack the righteous one (δίκαιον), because he opposes their actions. He has been reproaching them for their sins against the law (ἁμαρτήματα νόμου) and their training (παιδείας). He claims to have knowledge about God (γνῶσιν ἔχειν Θεοῦ). He says that he is a child of the Lord (παῖδα Κυρίου). He has rebuked their thoughts. His very presence is a burden to them. He is not like the others since his ways are strange. He thinks that they are base and unclean. He claims that God is his father (πατέρα Θεόν).

The wine drinker (Prov 23:29-23:35)

“Who has woe?

Who has sorrow?

Who has strife?

Who has complaining?

Who has wounds without cause?

Who has redness of eyes?

The answer is

Those who linger late over wine,

Those who keep trying mixed wine.

Do not look at wine when it is red.

Do not look at it when it sparkles in the cup.

Do not look at it when it goes down smoothly.

At the last it bites like a serpent.

It stings like an adder.

Your eyes will see strange things.

Your mind will utter perverse things.

You will be like

One who lies down in the midst of the sea.

You will be like

One who lies on the top of a mast.

You will say.

‘They struck me.

But I was not hurt.

They beat me.

But I did not feel it.

When shall I awake?

I will seek another drink.’”

This is a stinging rebuke against drunkenness. What are some of the characteristics of a drunkard or an alcoholic? They are full of woe and sorrow. They are always in arguments complaining. They have wounds on their body that they do not know where they came from. Of course, they have redness in their eyes. There is a lure to excessive wine drinking. They stay up late drinking and talking. This red wine sparkles in the cup and goes down so smoothly. However, this wine has a bite like a snake or viper adder. That is when you hallucinate. You see strange things and image even stranger things. You think that you are in the middle of the sea or at the top of a ship’s mast. You complain that you got hit, but it didn’t hurt.   People beat you, but you do not feel it. All you think about when you wake up is when I will get my next drink. These are the true symptoms of an alcoholic. You need to get help.

The loose woman (Prov 5:1-5:6)

“My child!

Be attentive to my wisdom!

Incline your ear to my understanding!

Thus you may hold on to prudence.

Thus your lips may guard knowledge.

The lips of a loose woman drip honey.

Her speech is smoother than oil.

But in the end

She is as bitter as wormwood.

She is as sharp as a two-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death.

Her steps follow the path to Sheol.

She does not keep straight on the path of life.

Her ways wander.

She does not know it.”

Once again, we have a parental warning, but this time it is about the loose or strange woman also mentioned in chapter 2. There is the usual admonition to pay attention and listen to his words of wisdom and understanding. He wanted his children to have prudence and knowledge. Then he went into a description of this loose or strange woman. Her lips were sweeter than honey and her speech smoother than oil. However she was bitter like wormwood, some kind of bitter plant. She also was a sharp two edged sword that would lead to death in Sheol. She did not keep to the straight and narrow path of life. She was a wanderer, but did not know it. There does not seem to be any sexual overtones, but a mere unflattering portrayal of this loose or strange woman.

Watch out for the loose woman (Prov 2:16-2:19)

“You will be saved from the loose woman.

You will be saved from the adulteress

With her smooth words.

She has forsaken the partner of her youth.

She has forgotten the covenant of her God.

Her house or way sinks down to death.

Her paths lead to the shades.

Those who go to her

Never come back.

They never regain the paths of life.”

The loose or strange woman was always a problem for young men. Notice this is specifically for young men, since there is no equivalent advice for young women to watch out for males who might want to commit adultery. This is an adulterous woman who uses smooth words to lure young men. Interestingly enough, the emphasis is on the wickedness of the woman, since the assumption was that the good young men would have to be led astray. She has forsaken the partner or companion of her youth for another young man. Actually that is what middle aged men do, not middle aged women. She has forgotten her covenant with God. She and her house would lead to death, as she lives in the shadows of life, not in the bright sunlight. Now came the big warning. Those who went to her would never return. Their whole life would be ruined. They would never regain the path of life. This was a strong warning to be aware of smooth talking middle aged women.