The extreme conditions bless God (Dan 3:49-3:51)

“Bless the Lord!

Ice!

Cold!

Sing praise to him!

Highly exalt him forever!   

Bless the Lord!

Frosts!

Snows!

Sing praise to him!

Highly exalt him forever!   

Bless the Lord!

Lightning!

Clouds!

Sing praise to him!

Highly exalt him forever!” 

This hymn continued with a blessing of the Lord from the ice, the cold, the frosts, the snows, the lightning, and the clouds. God controlled them, so that they should praise and exalt him forever.

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The death of the cedar tree (Ezek 31:13-31:14)

“All the birds

Of the air

Settle

On its fallen trunk.

All the wild animals

Lodge

Among its boughs.

All this is

In order

That no trees

By the waters

May grow

To a lofty height

Or set their tops

Among the clouds.

No trees

That drink water

May reach up

To them

In height.

All of them

Are handed over

To death,

To the world below.

They will be

With all mortals,

Who go down

To the pit.”

The birds of the air will settle on the fallen trunk of this great cedar tree. Wild animals will be among its loose branches. This would be a warning that no other trees that were near water should grow to lofty heights. No other trees should have their tree tops in the clouds or reach up to those heights. All of them would be handed over to death, to go to the world below, the great pit, where all the other mortals go. This personification of the cedar tree was complete, since it would share the afterlife with other mortals in the underworld pit.

The fall of the tall cedar tree (Ezek 31:10-31:12)

“Therefore,

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘The cedar tree

Towered high.

It set its top

Among the clouds.

Its heart

Was proud

Of its height.

I will give it

Into the hand

Of the prince

Of the nations.

He has dealt

With it,

As its wickedness deserves.

I have cast it out.

Foreigners,

From the most terrible

Of the nations,

Have cut it down.

They have left it.

Its branches

Have fallen

On the mountains.

In all the valleys.

Its boughs

Lie broken

In all the watercourses

Of the land.

All the people

Of the earth

Went away

From its shade.

They left it.’”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that this great cedar tree towered high, with its tree top in the clouds. This tree was proud in its heart of its height. Yahweh gave it to the prince of the nations, probably the king of Babylon, who dealt with it because of its wickedness. Yahweh was going to cast it out. Foreigners from the worst nations came and cut it down. They left it lying on the mountains and in the valleys. The fallen broken branches were on the ground and in small streams of water. Everybody went away from its shade, as they left this fallen tree alone.

The mythical tall cedar in Lebanon (Ezek 31:3-31:5)

“Consider a cedar

Of Lebanon!

It has fair branches.

It has forest shade.

It has great height.

Its top is

Among the clouds.

The waters nourished it.

The deep made it

Grow tall.

Its rivers flow

Around the place

It was planted,

Sending forth

Its streams

To all the trees

of the forest.

So it towered high

Above all the trees

Of the forest.

Its boughs grew large.

Its branches were long

From abundant water

In its shoots.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, compared Egypt to a tall cedar tree in Lebanon. This majestic tree had fair branches in a forest shade. It was extremely tall so that its top reached into the clouds. Ezekiel seems to be referring to an ancient Babylonian myth about the deep abyss or a dragon from the watery chaos that made trees grow tall. Thus they would enter the heaven of the gods in the clouds. The nourishing water from this deep abyss made this cedar tree grow tall. Streams from this water abyss flowed all around the place where this tree was planted. Even the other trees in the forest were able to grow because of this water. Nevertheless, this high cedar tree towered over all the other trees in the forest, because it had large long branches, due to the abundance of water in its shoots.

The unreachable wisdom (Bar 3:29-3:31)

“Who has

Gone up into heaven?

Who has

Taken her?

Who has

Brought her down

From the clouds?

Who has

Gone over the sea?

Who has

Found her?

Who will buy her

For pure gold?

No one knows

The way to her.

No one is concerned

About the path to her.”

Next Baruch asked a series of questions about wisdom. Who has ever gone up to heaven and took wisdom away? Who has brought her down from the clouds? Who has gone over the seas and then found her? Who was able to buy wisdom with pure gold? The answer, of course, is no one. No one knows the way to wisdom. In fact, most people are not concerned about the paths to wisdom. There is no broad highway to wisdom.

The ruin of the vineyard (Isa 5:5-5:6)

“Now I will tell you

What I will do

To my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge.

It shall be devoured.

I will break down its wall.

It shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste.

It shall not be pruned.

It shall not be hoed.

It shall be overgrown

With briers.

It shall be overgrown

With thorns.

I will also command the clouds

That they rain no rain upon it.”

Now Isaiah carries this metaphor forward. What should he do with this wild grape vineyard? He decided to remove the hedges and walls that protected this vineyard from other animals and wild growth. He wanted this vineyard to be devoured and trampled on, so that it would go to waste. He was not going to prune or hoe it. He wanted it to be overgrown with wild briers and thorns. He even was going so far as to command the clouds not to rain on this vineyard. That was a stretch.

The wonders of weather (Sir 43:13-43:17)

“By the Lord’s command,

He sends the driving snow.

He speeds the lightning

Of his judgment.

Therefore the storehouses

Are opened.

The clouds fly out

Like birds.

In his majesty,

He gives the clouds

Their strength.

The hailstones

Are broken in pieces.

The voice of his thunder

Rebukes the earth.

When he appears,

The mountains shake.

At his will,

The south wind blows.”

Sirach, like many of the ancient people, including the Israelites, believed that God completely controlled the weather. In fact, we still have some farming communities that pray to God for rain. Today’s TV weather forecast would be that God is sending us rain and a cool temperature, with nothing about a cold front. God’s command sent snow and lightning. The storehouses in the clouds would be opened up by the Lord to let rain, snow, and hailstones fall to earth like birds tumbling out of the sky. Thus precipitation from the sky was like the thunderous voice of God that shock up the mountains. The Lord was also responsible for the south mild winds also.