The first beatitude about poverty (Mt 5:3-5:3)

“Blessed are

The poor in spirit!

Theirs is

The kingdom of heaven.”

 

Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

 

Most people speak about the 8 beatitudes of Jesus on the mountain.  They are also found in Luke, chapter 6:20, since they feature the key points of Jesus’ preaching that was founded on the Hebrew Scriptures.  What does “blessed (Μακάριοι)” mean?  This Greek word Μακάριοι appears over 68 times in the Greek Septuagint Old Testament, especially in the Psalms.  God will bless these people, so that they will be the fortunate ones, the happy ones, the wise ones.  There are echoes of Psalm 32, where the happy and blessed ones are those who have had their sins forgiven, since they have no deceit in their hearts.  The blessed people are the poor, the hungry, the mourners, and those being persecuted.  Number one is the poor.  However, right off the bat, there is a difference with Luke, chapter 6:20, who simply said blessed are the poor (Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ) without any modification, since he did not mention the “poor in spirit (οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι),” as Matthew indicated here.  What does Matthew mean by this “poor in spirit” or spiritual poverty?  There is a whole Judaic tradition about the oppressed poor and the humble of the land, as in prophets Isaiah, chapter 61:1 and 66:2, and Zephaniah, chapter 2:3, but that was not spiritual poverty.  Perhaps, this is more like the lack of concern for material things, whether you are actually poor or not.  For Luke, it was black or white, poor or not.  The 2nd major difference was the reward.  Matthew continued to talk about what they would possess, the kingdom of the heavens (ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν), while Luke said it was the kingdom of God, plain and simple.

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Do not worry (Dan 12:9-12:12)

“He said.

‘Go your way!

Daniel!

The words are

To remain secret.

They are to be sealed

Until the time of the end.

Many shall be

Purified,

Cleansed,

Refined.

But the wicked

Shall continue

To do wickedly.

None of the wicked

Shall understand.

But those who are wise

Shall understand.’”

The man in the linen clothes told Daniel not to worry.  Daniel was to go on his way.  These words were secret.  Thus, they would be sealed up until the end times.  Many had to be purified, cleansed and refined until then.  The wicked would continue to do wicked things, since they have no understanding.  However, the wise ones understand what is going on.  This is a kind of back handed slap at Daniel, since he claimed he did not understand what the angel had been telling him.

The disputes and the resistance (Dan 11:32-11:35)

“He shall seduce,

With flattery,

Those who violate

The covenant.

But the people

Who are loyal

To their God

Shall stand firm.

They shall take action.

The wise among the people

Shall give understanding

To many.

For some days,

However,

They shall fall

By the sword,

By the flame.

They shall suffer

Captivity,

As well as plunder.

When they fall victim,

They shall receive

A little help.

Many shall join

Them insincerely.

Some of the wise

Shall fall.

Thus,

They may be

Refined,

Purified,

Cleansed,

Until the time

Of the end.

There is still an interval

Until the time appointed.

As indicated in 1 Maccabees, chapter 2, King Antiochus IV seduced some of the Hellenizing Judeans to abandon the covenant. However, there were many who remained loyal to their God. They stood firm and sided with the wise ones of Jerusalem. However, they also fell by the sword and the flames. They suffered captivity and plunder, but they received a little help. Some of these people were insincere. Even some of the wise ones fell, so that they could be refined, purified, and cleansed until the end times. Nevertheless, there was going to be an interval until this appointed time came.

The law and the scribes (Jer 8:8-8:9)

“How can you say?

‘We are wise.

The law of Yahweh is with us.’

When,

In fact,

The false pen of the scribes

Has made it into a lie.

The wise

Shall be put to shame.

They shall be dismayed.

They shall be taken.

They have rejected

The word of Yahweh.

What wisdom is in them?”

Jeremiah complaints against the false written interpretations of the law by the scribes. They proclaim that they are the wise ones because they understand the law of Yahweh. However, they have turned it into a lie with their false writings. They will be dismayed and put to shame. They cannot be wise if they have rejected the word of Yahweh.

The wise ones (Sir 21:11-21:13)

“Whoever keeps the law

Controls his thoughts.

Wisdom is the fulfillment

Of the fear of the Lord.

The one who is not clever

Cannot be taught.

But there is cleverness

That increases bitterness.

The knowledge of the wise

Will increase like a flood.

Their counsel is

Like a life-giving spring.”

If you keep the law, you will control your thoughts. Wisdom completes those who fear the Lord. If you are not clever, you cannot be taught. Yet there is cleverness that increases bitterness. The knowledge of the wise people increases like a flood. Their counsel is like a refreshing spring of water that saves lives.

The wise ones (Sir 20:27-20:31)

“The wise person

Advances himself

By his words.

Whoever is sensible

Will please the great men.

Whoever cultivates the soil

Will heap up their harvest.

Whoever pleases the great men

Will atone for injustice.

Favors blind the eyes of the wise.

Gifts blind the eyes of the wise.

Like a muzzle on the mouth,

They stop reproofs.

What is the value

Of hidden wisdom?

What is the value

Of an unseen treasure?

What value is either of them?

Better are those

Who hide their folly

Than those

Who hide their wisdom.”

Sirach gives us some indications about the wise people. They advance themselves by their words. They are sensible and thus please great men. They know how to cultivate the soil to get a great harvest. They atone for injustice. However, there is a down side. They should not be blinded by gifts and favors. Thus they might end up putting a muzzle on so that they stop criticizing the people who are giving these presents and favors. There is no value to hidden wisdom or unseen treasure. The foolish should hide their foolishness rather than the wise hide their wisdom.

The wise ones (Prov 14:1-14:3)

“The wise woman builds her house.

But the foolish woman tears it down

With her own hands.

Those who walk uprightly

Fear Yahweh.

But one who is devious in conduct

Despises Yahweh.

The talk of fools

Is a rod for their backs.

But the lips of the wise

Preserve them.”

The wise woman builds her own house. The foolish woman, on the other hand, tears it down herself. If you walk upright, you fear Yahweh. If you are devious all over the place, then you despise Yahweh. The talk of fools brings the whipping rod to their backs, while the lips of the wise keep them save.