Violence (Mt 11:12-11:12)

“From the days

Of John the Baptist

Until now,

The kingdom of heaven

Has suffered violence.

The violent seize it

By force.”

 

ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ἡμερῶν Ἰωάνου τοῦ Βαπτιστοῦ ἕως ἄρτι ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται, καὶ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν

 

This saying about John the Baptist can be found in a different context with different meaning in Luke, chapter 16:16.  This strange saying of Jesus, via Matthew, talked about the days of John the Baptist until the present (ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ἡμερῶν Ἰωάνου τοῦ Βαπτιστοῦ ἕως ἄρτι), not a very long time.  The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται).  What does that mean?  What kind of violence was taking place in the heavenly kingdom?  Did this mean that so many people were violently seeking the kingdom of heaven that John was talking about?  Is this some kind of violence within the kingdom of heaven?  Were these violent people trying to get into the kingdom of heaven?  The next sentence seems to support this idea that violent people wanted to seize the kingdom of heaven by force (καὶ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν).

The interpretation of Mene (Dan 5:26-5:26)

“This is the interpretation

Of the matter.

‘Mene means

God has numbered

The days

Of your kingdom.

It will be brought

To an end.’”

Daniel then gave his official interpretation of the Arabic Mene. This meant that God had numbered the days King Belshazzar’s kingdom, because it would come to an end. This should not be shocking, since all things come to an end.

The new covenant (Jer 31:31-31:31)

“Says Yahweh.

‘The days are surely coming,

When I will make

A new covenant

With the house of Israel

As well as the house of Judah.’”

Yahweh says, via Jeremiah, that the days are coming when he would make a new covenant with both the house of Israel and the house of Judah. What then happened to the old alliance between Yahweh and his people?

A new population (Jer 31:27-31:27)

“Says Yahweh.

‘The days are surely coming.

When I will sow

Both the house of Israel

As well as the house of Judah

With the seed of humans,

With the seed of animals.’”

Yahweh says that the days are coming when both humans and animals will prosper in Israel and Judah. Both of them will be repopulated with humans and animals through the seeds of Yahweh.

Remember the wilderness (Jer 2:2-2:3)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘I remember

The devotion of your youth.

I remember

Your love as a bride.

You followed me in the wilderness,

In a land not sown.

Israel was holy to Yahweh.

She was the first fruits of his harvest.

All who ate of it were held guilty.

Disaster came upon them.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh wanted them to remember the days of their youth when they were devoted to him like a young bride. They followed Yahweh in the sparse wilderness. Israel was holy to Yahweh like the first fruits of his harvest. However, things have changed since the events of hundreds of years ago in the Exodus. All who ate became guilty and disaster came to them. Thus Jeremiah proclaimed this oracle of Yahweh.

The truly wise person (Sir 37:22-37:26)

“If a person is wise

To his own advantage, T

he fruits of his good sense

Will be praiseworthy.

They will be trustworthy.

A wise person

Instructs his own people.

The fruits of his good sense

Will endure.

A wise person

Will have praise heaped upon him.

All those who see him

Will call him happy.

The days of a person’s life

Are numbered.

But the days of Israel

Are without number.

Whoever is wise

Among his people

Will inherit honor.

His name will live forever.”

Sirach now points out who the truly wise person is. The wise ones work to their own advantage. They have good sense that is praiseworthy, trustworthy, and honored. The truly wise ones instruct their own people. The fruits of these happy wise people will endure with praise. Although the days of everyone are numbered and limited, that is not true about Israel since its days are not numbered. So too, the honorable wise person will have his name last forever. This hyperbolic use of forever indicates a long time, rather than eternity.

Vows and the Lord (Sir 18:22-18:26)

“Let nothing hinder you

From paying a vow promptly.

Do not wait until death

To be released from it.

Before making a vow,

Prepare yourself.

Do not be like one

Who puts the Lord

To the test.

Think of his wrath

On the day of death.

Think of his wrath

In the moment of vengeance,

When he turns away his face.

In the time of plenty,

Think of the time of hunger.

In the days of wealth

Think of poverty,

Think of need.

From morning to evening

Conditions change.

All things move swiftly

Before the Lord.”

Sirach reminds us about the problems of making vows. You should prepare yourself before you make a vow to give an offering or payment. Then you should pay your vows promptly. Don’t wait until your death, so that it will be forgotten. Don’t test the Lord. Think of his wrath on the day of your death, if you have not fulfilled your vows. He will turn his face away from you. So also remember when you have plenty to eat, about the times when you were hungry. In the days of your wealth, remember the days of your needy poverty. Remember that things change quickly before the Lord, sometimes as quickly as from morning to evening of the same day.