Inappropriate speech (Sir 20:18-20:20)

“A slip on the pavement

Is better than a slip of the tongue.

The downfall of the wicked

Will occur just as speedily.

A coarse person is

Like an inappropriate story,

That is continually on the lips

Of the ignorant.

A proverb from a fool’s lips

Will be rejected.

He does not tell it

At the proper time.”

Sirach notes that it is better to slip on the pavement than to have a slip of the tongue. The wicked fall speedily. A crude vulgar person is like an inappropriate story that ignorant people keep telling all the time. Thus a proverb from the lips of a fool will be rejected because he will not tell it at the right time.

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Verify what you hear (Sir 19:13-19:17)

“Question a friend!

Perhaps he did not do it.

But if he did anything,

Then he may not do it again.

Question a neighbor!

Perhaps he did not say it.

But if he said it,

Then he may not repeat it.

Question a friend!

Often it is slander.

Do not believe everything you hear.

A person may make a slip

Without intending it.

Who has not sinned with his tongue?

Question your neighbor

Before you threaten him!

Let the law of the Most High

Take its course.

Do not be angry!”

Sirach warns us to verify what you have heard before you take any actions. You should go to the person and ask whether what you have heard is true or not. If a friend has done or said something, check it out to see if he did what you thought he did. Perhaps he will not do it again, if you confront him. Do the same with your neighbor. Here is the famous saying, “do not believe everything you hear.” Sometimes people slip and say something that they did not intend to say. Everyone has had a slip of the tongue. Everyone has sinned with their tongues. Always question people, before you threaten them. Let God’s law take its course. Do not be quick to anger.

Casting Lots (Prov 18:18-18:21)

“Casting the lot puts an end to disputes.

Casting lots decides between powerful contenders.

An ally offended is stronger than a city.

Such quarreling is like the bars of a castle.

From the fruit of the mouth,

One’s stomach is satisfied.

The yield of the lips

Brings satisfaction.

Death and life

Are in the power of the tongue.

Those who love it

Will eat its fruits.”

Casting lots was a way of finding out God’s will. This is how you put an end to disputes and arguments between powerful people. If you offend your ally he will become stronger than a city. This kind of quarreling is like the bars on a castle that cannot be torn down or bring about reconciliation. You satisfy your stomach through your mouth. So too the words of your lips will bring satisfaction. Life and death are in power of the tongue. When you love something, you will eat its fruits or enjoy the results.

The victory celebration (2 Macc 15:29-15:35)

“Then there was shouting and tumult. They blessed the Sovereign Lord in the language of their ancestors. Then the man, who was in body and soul the defender of his people, the man who maintained his youthful goodwill toward his compatriots, ordered them to cut off Nicanor’s head and his arm. They were to carry them to Jerusalem. When he arrived there, he called his compatriots together. He stationed the priests before the altar. He sent for those who were in the citadel. He showed them the vile Nicanor’s head and that profane man’s arm. This was the arm that had been boastfully stretched out against the holy house of the all powerful one. He cut out the tongue of the ungodly Nicanor. He said that he would give it piecemeal to the birds. He would hang up these rewards of his folly opposite the sanctuary. They all, looking to heaven, blessed the Lord who had manifested himself, saying.

‘Blessed is he who has kept his own place undefiled.’

Judas Maccabeus hung Nicanor’s head from the citadel, a clear and conspicuous sign to every one of the help of the Lord.”

Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 7. In both 1 and 2 Maccabees, they cut off the head and the arm of Nicanor. Here they also cut out his tongue in the presence of the men from the citadel. As in 1 Maccabees, they hung the head of Nicanor, but here it is more specific from the hated citadel. Here there is more praise for Judas Maccabeus as the defender with good will towards his people. Here they pray in the language of their ancestors that may have been Hebrew, instead of the common language of Aramaic. As usual they were happy that the Temple had remained undefiled.

The mutilation and killing of the spokesman for the sons (2 Macc 7:3-7:6)

“The king fell into a rage. He gave orders to have pans and caldrons heated. These were heated immediately. He commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out. They were to scalp him. Then they were to cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on. When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly. They said.

‘The Lord God is watching over us.

In truth he has compassion on us.

As Moses declared in his song

That bore witness against the people to their faces,

When he said,

He will have compassion on his servants.’”

The king seems to be personally present at this torture, even though his representatives carry out the action, either in Jerusalem or Antioch. This story of the 7 sons was the principal subject of the later 4 Maccabees, but there was no mention of it 1 Maccabees. This is a particularly brutal story. First they heated up the pans. Then they cut the tongue, the scalp, the hands, and the feet of the spokesperson, while the others looked on. They then fried him on the heated pan while he was still breathing. However, the brothers encouraged each other. They knew the Lord would have compassion on them, based on the Canticle of Moses in Deuteronomy, chapter 32.