The terrible situation in the land (Hos 4:2-4:3)

“There is swearing.

There is lying.

There is murder.

There is stealing.

Adultery breaks out.

Bloodshed follows bloodshed.

Therefore,

The land mourns.

All who live in it

Languish.

The wild animals,

Together with

The birds of the air,

Even the fish of the sea,

Are perishing.”

Hosea explained how bad the situation was in Israel. First, the place was full of sin with swearing, lying, murder, and stealing. Adultery was all over the place, with bloodshed everywhere. Thus, the land and its people mourned. Everyone who lived there was languishing. The wild animals, the birds of the air, and even the fish of the sea were perishing or dying. Death was in the air.

The response of Daniel (Dan 2:14-2:16)

“Then Daniel responded

With prudence,

As well as discretion,

To Arioch,

The king’s chief executor.

Arioch had gone out

To execute

The wise men

Of Babylon.

Daniel asked Arioch,

The royal official.

‘Why is the decree

Of the king

So severe?’

Then Arioch explained

The matter

To Daniel.

Thus,

Daniel went in

To see the king.

He requested

That the king

Give him time.

He would tell the king

The interpretation.”

Daniel was less confrontational, since he was prudent and discrete. He met the king’s chief executor, Arioch, the royal official in charge of the execution of these wise men. Daniel wanted to know what was going on. Why was the king so severe to these wise men of Babylon? After Arioch explained the situation to Daniel, Daniel decided to go to see the king himself. He told the king that he needed more time, but that he would provide an interpretation for the king’s dream.

The man with the writing case at his side (Ezek 9:2-9:4)

“Among the executors

Was a man

Clothed in linen,

With a writing case

At his side.

They went in.

They stood beside

The bronze altar.

Now the glory

Of the God of Israel

Had gone up

From the cherubim

On which it rested

To the threshold

Of the house.

Yahweh called

To the man

Clothed in linen,

With the writing case

At his side.

Yahweh said to him.

‘Go through the city,

Through Jerusalem,

Put a mark

On the foreheads

Of those who sigh,

Of those who groan

Over all the abominations

That are committed in it.’”

Now a new character enters the scene. This man dressed in white linen with a writing case at his side was among the 6 executioners from the north. They were all standing at the bronze altar when the glory of the God of Israel left the cherubim where it was resting and went to the threshold of the house. Then Yahweh called to the man, who was clothed in linen, with the writing case at his side. Yahweh told him to go into Jerusalem. He was to find all the people who were sighing and groaning about all the abominations in town. He was to put a taw mark on their forehead, like a mini cross, since taw was the last consonant of the Hebrew alphabet. Thus he acted like the angel of death in the Passover story. He marked those who cared about the situation there, who might be spared.

Orphans and widows (Lam 5:3-5:4)

“We have become

Orphans!

We are fatherless!

Our mothers are

Like widows!

We must pay

For the water

We drink!

The wood

We get

Must be bought.”

Assuming the first person plural, this author laments the situation of him and his friends left in Jerusalem. They have become orphans, without fathers. Their mothers have become widows. They have to pay for the water and the wood for their existence. Life is tough.

The treatment of slaves (Sir 33:24-33:29)

“Fodder is for a donkey.

A stick is for a donkey.

A burden is for a donkey.

Bread is for a slave.

Discipline is for a slave.

Work is for a slave.

Set your slave to work.

You will find rest.

If you leave his hands idle,

He will seek liberty.

A yoke will bow his neck.

A thong will bow his neck.

A wicked servant should have

Rack and tortures.

Put him to work.

Thus he may not be idle.

Idleness teaches much evil.

Set him to work,

As is fitting for him.

If he does not obey,

Make his fetters heavy.

Do not be overbearing

Toward anybody.

Do nothing unjust.”

Sirach accepts slavery as a fact of life, not to be disputed. This was a common biblical theme, so that the slave owners who cited the Bible could not be faulted. Slaves were slaves, so what? There was no sense of the idea of an equal fellow human being. In fact, it was clear that they should work hard as there was a comparison of a slave to a donkey. Just as the donkey was fed, whipped, and burdened, so too the slave should be fed with bread, disciplined, and worked hard. If your slave worked hard, you could get some restful idleness time for yourself. You should put a yoke and thong around your slave’s neck. If he was bad, you could beat him up. The slave should never be idle because that would lead to evil and his possible escape. If the slave did not obey, he should be punished. However, there was a limit to this brutality. You should not be overbearing or unjust. Of course, it was your decision to evaluate the situation.

The situation (Song 4:6-4:7)

Male lover

“Until the day breathes,

Until the shadows flee,

I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh.

I will hasten to the hill of frankincense.

You are altogether beautiful.

My love!

There is no flaw in you.”

This male lover cannot wait until the morning breath or the evening shadow. He is going to the mountain or hill full of myrrh and frankincense. These are the two most important fragrances what will later appear with the Magi in the New Testament. Here the allusion may be to the Temple in Jerusalem. Then this lover proclaims the general beauty of his female lover. She is totally beautiful without a flaw. Christians will later apply this phrase to the Christian Church and the Virgin Mother Mary.