“A man was there
He was a chief tax collector.
He was rich.”
Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ὀνόματι καλούμενος Ζακχαῖος, καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἀρχιτελώνης, καὶ αὐτὸς πλούσιος
Only Luke uniquely talked about this man in Jericho (Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ), named Zacchaeus (ὀνόματι καλούμενος Ζακχαῖος), who was a rich (καὶ αὐτὸς πλούσιος) chief tax collector or head of a customs house (καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἀρχιτελώνης). Luke was the only biblical writer to use this term ἀρχιτελώνης, that means a chief tax collector, head of a custom-house, chief tax-gatherer, or publican. Zacchaeus was an important man in Jericho because of his wealth and his position in charge of tax collecting there. His very name, Zacchaeus, meant righteous or upright in Hebrew. Luke was the only synoptic with this story of Zacchaeus. What do you think about people who work for the IRS and collect taxes?
“‘Do not preach!’
This is what they preach.
‘One should not preach
Of such things.
Disgrace will not
Should this be said?
O house of Jacob!
Is Yahweh’s patience
Are these his doings?
Do not my words
Who walks uprightly?’”
Micah indicated the difference between false preaching and true preaching. Was Micah to preach or not? Did he only have to say good things in order to preach? Should he be careful about what he said? Is it disgraceful to speak about bad things? Has Yahweh exhausted all his patience? However, Micah believed that his harsh words from Yahweh would help those who were upright. The evil ones would not like to hear about their evil ways.
“Those who serve
These idol gods
If any of these gods
Fall to the ground,
Must pick them up.
If anyone sets them upright,
Cannot move themselves.
If they are tipped over,
They cannot straighten themselves.
Gifts are placed
Just as before the dead.
The priests sell
That are offered
To these gods.
They use the money themselves.
Their wives likewise
Preserve some of the meat
But they give none of it
To the poor
Or the helpless.”
Next this author attacks those who take care of these idol gods. These caretakers were themselves ashamed. If any of these gods fell to the ground, they must pick them up. They have to set these gods upright since they cannot move themselves. If these idols are tipped over, they cannot up right themselves. In other words, there has to be someone around these false idol gods, because if anything happens to them, these caretakers have to straighten things out. Gifts are placed before these images, just like gifts for the dead. However, these caretaker priests often sell the sacrifices that were offered to these gods. Then they would use the money for themselves. Their wives likewise would preserve some of the meat with salt. However, they gave none of it to the poor or the helpless.
“Scoffers set a city aflame.
But the wise turn away wrath.
If the wise go to law with fools,
There is ranting.
There is ridicule without relief.
The bloodthirsty hate the blameless.
They seek the life of the upright.
A fool gives full vent to his anger.
But the wise quietly hold it back.”
The scoffers or the cynics will set a city in flames with their comments. The wise, on the other hand, will turn away or stay away from anger. If there is a dispute about the law, the wise will win out because the fools will be ranting away and ridiculed non-stop. The bloodthirsty evil men hate the blameless since they seek the life of the upright ones. Fools give vent to their anger but the wise ones hold back quietly.
“How much better to get wisdom than gold!
It is better to get understanding
Rather than choose silver.
The highway of the upright avoids evil.
Those who guard their way preserve their lives.”
Once again the value of wisdom outweighs that of gold and silver. It is better to have understanding than silver. Wisdom is greater than gold. The road of the upright avoids evil ways. The upright turn away from evil. They guard their life in order to preserve it.
“The sacrifice of the wicked is
An abomination to Yahweh.
But the prayer of the upright is
The way of the wicked is
An abomination to Yahweh.
But he loves whoever
There is severe discipline
For one who forsakes the way.
But one who hates rebuke will die.
Sheol and Abaddon lie open before Yahweh.
How much more the human hearts!
Scoffers do not like to be rebuked.
They will not go to the wise.”
The wicked are so bad that their sacrifice to Yahweh is an abomination. However, the prayer of the upright is delightful to Yahweh. The way of the wicked is an abomination to Yahweh because Yahweh loves righteousness. He rebukes those who forsake his way. However, the wicked do not like to be rebuked. These wicked ones will die and go to Sheol, the shadowy underground world, or Abaddon, the bottomless pit. Those cynic scoffers do not like to be rebuked either. They refuse to go with their human heart in following the wise ones.
“Fools mock at the guilt offering.
But the upright enjoy God’s favor.
The heart knows its own bitterness.
No stranger shares its joy.
The house of the wicked will be destroyed.
But the tent of the upright will flourish.
There is a way that seems right to a person.
But its end is the way to death.
Even in laughter
The heart is sad.
The end of joy is grief.”
Although the Hebrew text is difficult, it appears that fools do not see any value in the guilt offering. God scorns the wicked people, but he enjoys the upright ones. The heart knows the bitterness that no stranger can share in. The house of the wicked person will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will be fine. Sometimes we think that we are on the right path but it may actually lead to death. Even when some people laugh, their heart is sad, since the end of their joy leads to grief.