“Then they said.
Let us make plots against Jeremiah!
Instruction shall not perish
From the priest.
Counsel shall not perish
From the wise.
The word shall not perish
From the prophet.
Let us bring charges against him!
Let us not heed any of his words!’”
This unidentified they, maybe the people of Anathoth mentioned in chapter 11, are making a plot against Jeremiah. This is Jeremiah reporting about a plot against himself. These people said, that if they got rid of Jeremiah, the priests would still instruct, the wise would still counsel people, and the prophets would still prophesize. Thus they decided to bring charges against him. They were not going to listen to his words anymore.
“Thus says Yahweh.
‘Do not let the wise
Boast in their wisdom!
Do not let the mighty
Boast in their might!
Do not let not the wealthy
Boast in their wealth!
But let those who boast,
Boast in this!
They understand me.
They know me.
I am Yahweh.
I act with steadfast love.
I act with justice.
I act with righteousness in the earth.
In these things,
Yahweh warns, via Jeremiah, that the wise should not boast in their wisdom. The mighty should not boast in their might. The wealthy should not boast in their wealth. If they want to boast it should be in understanding and knowing Yahweh. He should be their boast, because he acts with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness. Yahweh delights in those things.
“A wooden beam
Firmly bonded into a building
Is not loosened by an earthquake.
Thus the mind firmly resolved
After due reflection
Will not be afraid in a crisis.
A mind settled
On an intelligent thought is
Like the stucco decoration
That makes a wall smooth.
Fences set on high places
Will not stand firm
Against the wind.
Thus a timid mind,
With a fool’s resolve,
Will not stand firm
Against any fear.”
If you put a wooden beam firmly into a building, it will withstand an earthquake. So too, a firmly resolved reflective mind will not be afraid in a crisis. A strong intelligent mind is like a stucco decoration on a smooth wall. On the other hand, high fences will not stand against a strong wind. So too, the fool’s timid mind will not stand firm against fear. Thus once again, we have a comparison between the strong mind of the wise and the timid mind of the foolish.
“Like a house in ruins
Is wisdom to a fool.
To the ignorant,
Knowledge is talk
That has no meaning.
To a senseless man,
Fetters on his feet.
Like manacles on his right hand.
A fool raises his voice
When he laughs.
But the wise
To the sensible person,
Like a golden ornament.
Like a bracelet on the right arm.”
The foolish people do not understand or appreciate education. The ignorant foolish people think that wisdom is a ruined house, since smart talk is meaningless. The ignorant ones think that education is nothing but chains on their feet and handcuffs on their hands. It holds them back from physical activity. The foolish laugh loudly, but the wise smile quietly. For the sensible person, education is a golden ornament or a bracelet on their arms. The fools are happy with their lack of education because they are ignorant.
“May God grant me
To speak with judgment!
May I have thoughts worthy
Of what I have received.
He is the guide
Even of wisdom.
He is the corrector of the wise.
We are in his hands.
Our words are in his hands.
All our understanding is in his hands.
All our skill in crafts is in his hands.”
This author speaks about wisdom as a gift from God (δὲ δῴη ὁ Θεὸς) given to him, King Solomon, based on 1 Kings, chapter 5. God would grant him the gift to speak with judgment. He wanted to be worthy of this received gift of wisdom (σοφίας). God is the corrector of the wise. We and our words (οἱ λόγοι) are in his hands. All our understanding and skill are in his hands.
“All this I laid to heart,
Examining it all.
The righteous are in the hand of God.
The wise are in the hand of God.
Their deeds are in the hand of God.
Whether it is love or hate,
One does not know.
Everything that confronts them is vanity.”
Once again, we have the reflective Qoheleth examining his heart. Life and all the deeds of the righteous and the wise are in the hand of God. No one really knows love or hate, since everything they confront is useless or vanity.
“I applied my mind to know wisdom.
When I wanted to see the business
That is done on earth,
How one’s eyes see sleep
Neither day nor night.
Then I saw all the work of God.
No one can find out
What is happening
Under the sun.
However much they may toil in seeking,
They will not find it out.
Even though those who are wise
Claim to know,
They cannot find it out.”
Qoheleth wanted to know about wisdom so he applied his mind. He wanted to see everything that was done on earth. However, no one could tell him what was happening here on earth, under the sun. Even the wise ones could not find out, despite their labors. These wise humans were not able to discern the wisdom of the work of God.
“A soft answer turns away wrath.
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge.
But the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The eyes of Yahweh are in every place.
They keep watch on the evil.
They keep watch on the good.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life.
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
A gentile tongue or being soft spoken is the tree of life. A soft spoken person can often turn away an angry person. On the other hand, a harsh bellicose person actually stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise with his words dispenses knowledge to all. However, the mouth of a fool pours out folly and foolishness. We have to remember that Yahweh sees everything with his eyes. He keeps watch over all the good and the bad evil also. Perverse behavior breaks the spirit, while the gentile words are the source of life.
“In all toil
There is profit.
But mere talk
Leads only to poverty.
The crown of the wise
Is their wisdom.
Is the garland of fools.
A truthful witness saves lives.
But one who utters lies is a betrayer.”
There is profit or gain in all kinds of work. Mere talk, on the other hand, just leads to poverty. The crown for the wise is their wisdom, but the foolish have a garland of folly as their crown. The truthful witness saves lives, while the liar actually betrays life itself.
“Whoever speaks the truth
Gives honest evidence.
But a false witness
Rash words are like sword thrusts.
But the tongue of the wise
Truthful lips endure forever.
But a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil.
But those who counsel peace have joy.
No harm happens to the righteous.
But the wicked are filled with trouble.
Lying lips are an abomination to Yahweh.
But those who act faithfully are his delight.”
Truth is important. Telling the truth is giving honest evidence. The false witness was full of deceitful speech. Their rash words were like sword swipes. The tongue of the wise truthful one brings healing and endures forever. The lying tongue only lasts a moment. The deceitful people plan their evil deeds. If you counsel peace, you will bring joy. The righteous are not harmed, but the wicked are full of trouble. Yahweh hates lying lips, but loves faithful true lips.