Those not accepting you (Mt 10:14-10:15)

“If anyone

Will not receive you

Or listen to your words,

Shake off the dust

From your feet,

As you leave

That house

Or town.”

 

καὶ ὃς ἂν μὴ δέξηται ὑμᾶς μηδὲ ἀκούσῃ τοὺς λόγους ὑμῶν, ἐξερχόμενοι ἔξω τῆς οἰκίας ἢ τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης ἐκτινάξατε τὸν κονιορτὸν τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν.

 

Equivalent passages to this can be found in Mark, chapter 6:11, and Luke, chapter 9:5.  If anyone (καὶ ὃς ἂν) would not receive you (μὴ δέξηται ὑμᾶς) or listen to your words (μηδὲ ἀκούσῃ τοὺς λόγους ὑμῶν), leave that house or town (ἐξερχόμενοι ἔξω τῆς οἰκίας ἢ τῆς πόλεως).  Shake off the dust from your feet (ἐκείνης ἐκτινάξατε τὸν κονιορτὸν τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν).  This indicated that the dust of that house or town was useless.

The salt of the earth (Mt 5:13-5:13)

“You are

The salt of the earth!

But if salt

Has lost its taste,

How can saltiness

Be restored?

It is no longer good

For anything,

But is thrown out.

It is trampled

Under foot.”

 

Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

 

This saying of Jesus can be found in Mark, chapter 9:49-50, and Luke, chapter 14:34-35, but not connected to the Beatitudes at all and with different phraseology. Salt was important not just as a spice and preservative but it represented wisdom and purity in the ancient world and Judaism. Matthew has Jesus turn to his disciples to remind them that they are the salt of the earth or the land (Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς). Meanwhile, the other two gospel writers just had statements about salt, rather than speaking explicitly to the disciples. Matthew then switched to the 3rd person from the 2nd person, when he explained about salt losing its taste (ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ). How can the taste be restored to the salt (ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται)? That salt was now useless, impotent, and not good for anything (εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι). The end result of this tasteless salt was that it should either be thrown away (εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω) or have people trample it down (καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων).

They will faint from the lack of the word of Yahweh (Am 8:13-8:14)

“In that day,

The beautiful young women

With the young men

Shall faint for thirst.

Those who swear

By Ashimah

Of Samaria,

Will say,

‘As your god lives,

O Dan!’

‘As the way of Beer-sheba

Lives.’

They shall fall,

But never rise again.”

Amos reminded them that on the day of Yahweh, the good looking young men and women would faint from thirst.  Their hope from their local gods would be useless, whether it was Ashimah in Samaria, the far northern territory of Dan or the far southern place of Beer-sheba.  They would all fall, never to rise again.

The worthless sacrifices (Hos 12:11-12:11)

“In Gilead,

There is iniquity.

They shall surely come to nothing.

In Gilgal,

They sacrifice bulls.

Thus,

Their altars shall be

Like stone heaps

On the furrows

Of the field.”

The various idol worship places in Gilead and Gilgal will become useless. Their iniquity will amount to nothing. The altars where they sacrificed bulls in Gilgal will become like heaps of stone in a furrowed field.

King Cyrus (Dan 14:1-14:1)

“When King Astyages

Was laid to rest

With his ancestors,

Cyrus the Persian

Succeeded to his kingdom.”

This last chapter of the Book of Daniel is often referred to as the story of Bel, the god, and the dragon. Daniel will show how each one was useless. Once again, this chapter is only in the Greek Septuagint, so that it is often called apocryphal. This story takes place at the later part of the life of Daniel, since Cyrus the Persian (598-530 BCE) was the King. His rule in Persia began in 559 BCE and lasted about 30 years. Here, he is still only the king of Persia that he received from his father, King Astyages (585-550 BCE). The sister of King Astyages was the wife of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Thus, you can see the connection, as Cyprus would have been the nephew of the Babylonian king. Eventually, Cyrus took over Babylon in 539 BCE.

The broken arm of the Pharaoh (Ezek 30:20-30:21)

“In the eleventh year,

In the first month,

On the seventh day

Of the month,

The word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Son of man!

I have broken

The arm of Pharaoh,

King of Egypt.

It has not been

Bound up

For healing.

It has not been

Wrapped

with a bandage.

Thus it cannot

Become strong

To wield the sword.’”

Once again there is a precise date for this oracle of Yahweh to Ezekiel, the son of man, the 7th day of the 1st month of the 11th year of King Zedekiah, in 587 BCE. Yahweh said that he had broken the arm of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Once it was broken, it was not going to heal. His broken arm was not bound up, wrapped up, or bandaged. He was not going to become strong enough to wield a sword. In other words, the Pharaoh would be useless in the face of any battle.

The explanation of the allegory of the vine (Ezek 15:6-15:8)

“Therefore thus says Yahweh God.

‘Like the wood

Of the vine

Among the trees

Of the forest,

That I have given

To the fire

For fuel,

So I will give up

The inhabitants

Of Jerusalem.

I will set my face

Against them.

Although they escape

From the fire,

The fire shall still

Consume them.

You shall know

That I am Yahweh,

When I set

My face

Against them.

I will make

The land desolate,

Because they have acted

Faithlessly.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh then explained this allegory or parable. Just as Yahweh had given the wood of the vine as fuel to the fire, so he has done the same to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.   Even if they escaped from this fire, the fire would still consume them. They would know that he was Yahweh, their God. He was going to make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly. The people of Jerusalem were strong special wood, like the vine wood. However, they were useless before the fire, and they are now even more useless after the fire. They had lost faith in Yahweh. What good were they?

Wood as fuel for the fire (Ezek 15:4-15:5)

“The wood of the vine

Is put in the fire

For fuel.

When the fire

Has consumed

Both ends of it,

The middle of it

Is charred.

Is it useful

For anything?

When it was whole,

It was used

For nothing.

How much less,

When the fire

Has consumed it?

It is charred.

Can it ever

Be used

For anything!”

The allegory or parable of the piece of vine wood continued. What if someone put the wood in a fire for fuel? The fire then would consume both ends with the middle charred. Was it useful for anything? Even before it was put into the fire, it was not used for anything, so that it was useless before it was put in the fire. Now that the fire had consumed and charred this piece of vine wood, it was even more useless. It would never be able to be used for anything.

The useless false wooden gods (Bar 6:70-6:73)

“Like a scarecrow

In a cucumber bed,

That guards nothing,

So are their gods of wood,

Overlaid with gold

Or silver.

In the same way,

Their gods of wood,

Overlaid with gold

Or silver,

Are

Like a thorn bush

In a garden,

On which every bird perches.

They are

Like a corpse

Thrown out in the darkness.

From the purple

Or the linen

That rot upon them,

You will know

That they are not gods.

They will finally

Be consumed themselves.

They will be a reproach

In the land.

Better,

Therefore

Is someone upright.

Such a person

Will be far above reproach.”

This letter of Jeremiah found as the last chapter in this book of Baruch ends with a comparison of these false wooden gods covered with gold and silver. The author compared them to a scarecrow in a cucumber bed that guarded nothing. They were compared to a thorn bush in a garden where birds sat on it. They were compared to a dead corpse in the dark. All of these useless items were like these useless idol gods. Even with purple or linen on them, they would still rot. They would be finally consumed and become a reproach to all. It was much better to be an upright person beyond reproach than any of these gods. So ends the letter of Jeremiah in the Book of Baruch.

Comparative value of these false idols (Bar 6:59-6:59)

“So it is better

To be a king

Who shows

His courage

Than to be

These false gods.

It is better to be

A household utensil

That serves

Its owner’s need,

Than to be

These false gods.

It is better to be

Even the door

Of a house

That protects its contents,

Than to be

These false gods,

It is better to be

Also a wooden pillar

In a palace,

Than to be

These false gods.”

This author draws a sense of the comparative value of these false idol gods. He explains that it is better to be a courageous king than a false god. That is pretty simple. It is better to be a household utensil that at least serves its owner’s needs than be a false god. It was even better to be a door in a house that protects its contents than be a false god. It was also better to be a wooden pillar in a palace than be false god. You are better off being a practical wooden item than a useless impractical false wooden god.