Judgment against the wicked (Mal 3:5-3:5)

“‘Then I will draw near

To you

For judgment.

I will be swift

To bear witness

Against the sorcerers,

Against the adulterers,

Against those who swear falsely,

Against those who oppress

The hired workers

In their wages,

Against those who oppress

The widow

With the orphan,

Against those who thrust aside

The alien,

Against those who

Do not fear me.’

Says Yahweh of hosts.”

Yahweh was going to deliver his judgment against various wicked people.  He was gong to bear a swift witness against them.  Then he specifically mentioned them, the sorcerers, the adulterers, and the liars.  He also would bear judgment against those who oppressed their hired workers, the widows, and the orphans.  He also would bear witness against those people who did not treat aliens correctly or did not fear Yahweh.  There was no ambiguity in what he was talking about.

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The bad people in Jerusalem (Ezek 22:6-25:9)

“The princes of Israel

In you,

Everyone

According to his power,

Has been bent

On shedding blood.

Fathers are treated

With contempt.

Mothers are treated

With contempt

In you.

The alien,

Residing within you,

Suffers extortion.

The orphans

Are wronged

In you.

The widows

Are wronged

In you.

You have despised

My holy things.

You have profaned

My Sabbath.

There are men

In you

Who slander

To shed blood.

There are men

In you

Who eat

Upon the mountains.

Men commit lewdness

In your midst.”

A lot of bad things were happening in Jerusalem. The princes of Israel had been shedding blood. Parents, both mothers and fathers, were treated with contempt. The alien residents suffered extortion. The orphans and the widows were wronged. The people of Jerusalem have despised Yahweh’s holy things and profaned his Sabbath. They slander and shed blood. They eat on the mountains. They commit lewd actions in their midst.

Amend your ways (Jer 7:5-7:7)

“If you truly amend your ways,

If you truly amend your doings,

If you truly execute justice,

One with another,

If you do not oppress the alien,

If you do not oppress the orphan,

If you do not oppress the widow,

If you do not shed innocent blood

In this place,

If you do not go after other gods

To your own hurt,

Then I will dwell

With you

In this place,

In the land that I gave of old

To your ancestors forever.”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, says that he will dwell with them if they amend their ways. This was very conditional. It depended on them being just with one another. They were not to oppress the aliens, the orphans, and the widows. They were not to shed innocent blood. They were not to go after others gods. If they did all this, Yahweh would remain with them forever in this land that he gave to their ancestors.

False justice (Isa 10:1-10:4)

“Woe to you

Who make iniquitous decrees!

Woe to you

Who write oppressive statutes!

You turn aside

The needy from justice!

You rob the poor of my people

Of their right!

Widows may be your spoil!

You make the orphans your prey!

What will you do

On the day of punishment?

What will you do

In the calamity

That will come from afar?

To whom will you flee for help?

Where will you leave your wealth?

Will you crouch among the prisoners?

Will you fall among the slain?

For all this

His anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

Isaiah then curses those who practice injustice, those who make evil decrees and oppressive statutes. He was against those who took away justice and robbed the poor people of their rights. These unjust people took stuff from the widows and the orphans as if they were taking spoil after a war or prey for an animal. What were they going to do on the punishment day? In troubles, who would help them? Where were they going to leave their wealth? They might end up as a prisoner or get killed. Once again, this little section ends with the refrain that the angry hand of Yahweh has not turned away, since it is still stretched out today.

Worthless money (Isa 1:22-1:23)

“Your silver has become dross.

Your wine is mixed with water.

Your princes are rebels.

They are the companions of thieves.

Everyone loves a bribe.

They run after gifts.

They do not defend the orphans.

The widow’s cause does not

Come before them.”

Isaiah reminds the Israelites that their silver money in Jerusalem has become worthless scum dross. Their wine is not pure, since it is mixed with water, or watered down. The princes of Jerusalem have become rebels and companions of thieves. They love bribes and run after gifts. There is no one left to defend and help the orphans and the widows, which is so important for Israelite life.

Seek justice (Isa 1:17-1:17)

“Learn to do good!

Seek justice!

Rescue the oppressed!

Defend the orphans!

Plead for the widows!”

Isaiah’s call for justice has nothing to do with worship or the law. It is a clear moral imperative. You must seek justice. You must rescue anyone who is oppressed. You must defend the fatherless orphans. You must plead for the widows. There is no equivocation. It is your moral responsibility to help the oppressed, the orphans, and the widows, not the rich or the powerful.

Wicked actions (Wis 2:10-2:11)

“Let us oppress the righteous poor man!

Let us not spare the widow!

Let us not regard the gray hairs of the aged!

But let our might be our law of right!

What is weak proves itself to be useless.”

Unlike Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes, this author believed that the impious would do wicked deeds. These impious ones wanted to oppress the righteous poor people (πένητα δίκαιον), take advantage of the widows (χήρας), and not respect the aged (πρεσβύτου) with their gray hair. For them, might and strength was only the law (νόμος) to prove who was right. The weak were useless. Only the strong survive.