Jeremiah goes to the potter’s house (Jer 18:1-18:4)

“The word came to Jeremiah

From Yahweh.

‘Come!

Go down to the potter’s house!

There I will let you hear my words.’

So I went down to the potter’s house.

There he was working at his wheel.

The vessel he was making of clay

Was spoiled

In the potter’s hand.

He reworked it into another vessel.

As it seemed good to him to do.”

Yahweh told Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house, probably in the southern section of Jerusalem. Jeremiah did just as Yahweh wanted him to do, as he went to the potter’s house. There he saw the potter working with clay at his pottery wheel. However, the potter spoiled the first jug that he was making, so he made it into another kind of vessel instead of throwing it away. So far, this is a pretty straight forward story.

The foolish ones (Sir 21:14-21:17)

“The mind of a fool is

Like a broken jar.

It can hold no knowledge.

When an intelligent person

Hears a wise saying,

He praises it.

He adds to it.

When a fool hears it,

He laughs at it.

He throws it behind his back.

A fool’s chatter is

Like a burden on a journey.

But delight is found

In the speech of the intelligent.

The utterance of a sensible person

Is sought in the assembly.

They ponder his words in their minds.”

Sirach says that the mind of a fool is like a broken jar that cannot hold any knowledge in it. This was the common idea of the mind as an empty jar that knowledge fills up. When an intelligent person hears a wise saying, he or she praises it and adds to it. On the contrary, when the fool hears the same thing, he laughs at it, throwing it behind his back. The fool’s chatter on a long journey is burdensome, but the speech of an intelligent person is delightful. Thus in an assembly, the presentations of a sensible person is often sought after, so that others might ponder his words.

Thanksgiving for the punishment to King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 1:11-1:17)

‘Having been saved by God,

Out of grave dangers.

We thank him greatly

For taking our side against the king.

God drove out those who fought against the holy city.

When the leader reached Persia

With a force that seemed irresistible,

They were cut to pieces in the temple of Nanea

By a deception employed by the priests of Nanea.

On the pretext of intending to marry her,

Antiochus came to the place together with his friends,

To secure most of its treasures as a dowry.

When the priests of the temple of Nanea

Had set out the treasures,

Antiochus had come with a few men

Inside the wall of the sacred precinct,

They closed the temple as soon as he entered it.

Opening the secret door in the ceiling,

They threw stones.

They struck down the leader and his men,

They dismembered them.

They cut off their heads.

They threw them to the people outside.

Blessed in every way be our God,

Who has brought judgment

Upon those who have behaved impiously.”

They were thankful that God had taken King Antiochus IV in 164 BCE. He had brought great dangers to Jerusalem by his attack as in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. He died about the same time of the writing of this letter, according to 1 Maccabees, chapter 5. However, there was no indication there on how he died, but this story in 2 Maccabees is very explicit. Here the king died at the hands of the Nanea priests, since Nanea was some kind of Syrian goddess. Perhaps King Antiochus IV was trying to take money from the temple. This story shows how the king suffered a brutal death with stones dropped on him and his men. Then they dismembered him, cutting off his head, and throwing him outside the temple.   All this they did because he had acted impiously. However, in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6, King Antiochus IV had repentance for what he had done. However, there is no mention of that here. Remember that this same King Antiochus IV had invaded Egypt also. He had received his just reward.