The melting in the furnace of Jerusalem (Ezek 22:19-22:22)

“Therefore,

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘Because you have all become

Worthless dross,

I will gather you

Into the midst of Jerusalem.

As one gathers

Silver,

Bronze,

Iron,

Lead,

Tin,

Into a smelter furnace,

To blow the fire

Upon them,

In order

To melt them.

So I will gather you

In my anger,

In my wrath.

I will put you in

The furnace of Jerusalem.

I will melt you.

I will gather you

I will blow upon you

With the fire

Of my wrath.

You shall be melted

Within it.

As silver is melted

In a smelter furnace,

So you shall be melted

In it.

You shall know

That I,

Yahweh,

Have poured out

My wrath

Upon you.’”

Yahweh said that they all had become worthless dross in Jerusalem. Just like one gathers silver, bronze, iron, lead, and tin to put into a smelter furnace, so too the anger and wrath of Yahweh would gather them together. He would put them into Jerusalem to melt them with the fire of his wrath. He was going to blow fire on them, just like fire on metals in a smelter furnace. Thus they would know that Yahweh had poured out his fiery wrath upon them.

The explanation of the allegory of the vine (Ezek 15:6-15:8)

“Therefore thus says Yahweh God.

‘Like the wood

Of the vine

Among the trees

Of the forest,

That I have given

To the fire

For fuel,

So I will give up

The inhabitants

Of Jerusalem.

I will set my face

Against them.

Although they escape

From the fire,

The fire shall still

Consume them.

You shall know

That I am Yahweh,

When I set

My face

Against them.

I will make

The land desolate,

Because they have acted

Faithlessly.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh then explained this allegory or parable. Just as Yahweh had given the wood of the vine as fuel to the fire, so he has done the same to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.   Even if they escaped from this fire, the fire would still consume them. They would know that he was Yahweh, their God. He was going to make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly. The people of Jerusalem were strong special wood, like the vine wood. However, they were useless before the fire, and they are now even more useless after the fire. They had lost faith in Yahweh. What good were they?

Yahweh’s rejection (Jer 6:27-6:30)

“I have made you a tester.

You are a refiner among my people.

Thus you may know their ways.

You may test their ways.

They are all stubbornly rebellious.

They go about with slanders.

They are bronze.

They are iron.

All of them act corruptly.

The bellows blow fiercely.

The lead is consumed by the fire.

In vain,

The refining goes on.

The wicked are not removed.

They are called

‘Rejected silver.’

Yahweh has rejected them.”

Jeremiah was to be the tester for Yahweh. He was going to test the faithfulness of the people. Thus there is a comparison with testing metals. Jeremiah found that they were all rebellious corrupt slanderous people. He was going to test them as if they were iron or bronze. The lead was consumed in the fire but no precious metals were to be found. The wicked were not removed, so that they came up as rejected silver. Thus Yahweh has rejected these wicked people.

Yahweh against Assyria (Isa 30:31-30:33)

“The Assyrians will be terror-stricken

At the voice of Yahweh,

When he strikes with his rod.

Every stroke of the staff of punishment

That Yahweh lays upon them

Will be to the sound of timbrels,

Will be to the sound of lyres.

Battling with brandished arm,

He will fight with them.

His burning place of Topheth

Has long been prepared.

Truly,

It is made ready

For the King Molech.

Its pyre is made deep.

It is made wide.

There is fire in abundance.

There is wood in abundance.

The breath of Yahweh,

Like a stream of sulfur,

Kindles it.”

Isaiah warns Assyria that Yahweh will come after them. The Assyrians would be afraid of the voice of Yahweh. However, it is the stick or rod in his strong arm that they really have to fear. While music played, the clanging timbrels and the sweet sounding lyres, Yahweh would punish them. He had long prepared to light the fire that would destroy them. The burning place would be like Topheth, the ancient burning sacrifice place outside Jerusalem, where there were sacrifices to the Canaanite god king Molech. The abundant wood pile was prepared. All it needed was the sulfur breath of Yahweh to kindle and start this fire.

The judgments of the Holy One of Israel (Isa 30:12-30:14)

“Therefore thus says

The Holy One of Israel.

‘Because you reject this word,

You put your trust in oppression.

You put your trust in deceit.

You rely on oppression.

You rely on perverseness.

Therefore this iniquity

Shall become for you

Like a break in a high wall.

It will bulge out,

About to collapse.

The crash comes suddenly,

In an instant.

Its breaking is

Like that of a potter’s vessel.

It is smashed so ruthlessly

That among its fragments

Not a shred is found

For taking fire from the hearth,

Or dipping water out of the cistern.’”

The Holy One of Israel, not Yahweh, delivers this oracle, via Isaiah, in the second person plural. The Israelites have rejected the word of God. Instead they have relied on deceit, oppression, and perversion to get things done. Thus they will be punished. They are like a high wall with bulges in it about to collapse. Suddenly, in an instant, the whole wall will come crashing down like a potter’s vessel. This wall will be smashed so badly, that not a shred will be found. They will be like a broken vase that will not be able to be brought back to the fire to be reformed. This broken container will not be able to hold any water at all from the cistern well.

Quarrels (Sir 28:8-28:12)

“Refrain from strife.

Your sins will be fewer.

The hot tempered kindle strife.

The sinner disrupts friendships.

The sinner sows discord

Among those who are at peace.

In proportion to the fuel,

So will the fire burn.

In proportion to the obstinacy,

So will strife increase.

In proportion to a person’s strength,

So will be his anger.

In proportion to his wealth,

So he will increase his wrath.

A hasty quarrel kindles a fire.

A hasty dispute sheds blood.

If you blow on a spark,

It will glow.

If you spit on it,

It will be put out.

Yet both come out of your mouth.”

Sirach reminds us of the problems with quarrels and arguments. If you refrain from conflicts, your sins will be less. Usually it is the hot tempered people who start disputes. Sinners disrupt friendships. They sow discord among peacemakers. Then Sirach has a number of proportional examples. The more fuel you have, the more the fire burns. The more stubborn you are, the more disagreements you create. The stronger you are, the more you will be angry. The more wealth that you have, the more fury you will have. Sometimes it is a hasty quarrel that starts a fire that leads to bloodshed. However, you have control with your mouth. You can either blow on the spark to increase the flame or spit on the spark to put it out. The choice is yours, spit or blow on the spark of a fire to increase or decrease the argument.