“But the wise ones
Took flasks of oil
With their lamps.”
αἱ δὲ φρόνιμοι ἔλαβον ἔλαιον ἐν τοῖς ἀγγείοις μετὰ τῶν λαμπάδων ἑαυτῶν.
This parable story is unique to Matthew. Jesus said that the wise bridesmaids took flasks of oil (αἱ δὲ φρόνιμοι ἔλαβον ἔλαιον ἐν τοῖς ἀγγείοις) with their lamps (μετὰ τῶν λαμπάδων ἑαυτῶν). Just the opposite of the foolish ones, the wise or prudent bridesmaids took extra oil in vessels with them, so that they were better prepared for the future. Their oil of righteousness made them ready for the bridegroom.
“How the gold
Has grown dim!
How the pure gold
The sacred stones
At the head
Of every street.”
This lamentation begins with talk about the dimming gold and sacred stones scattered all over the streets, especially at the head of the street or the street corners. This is a reference to the holy treasures and vessels of the Temple that have been stolen due to the attack on Jerusalem. This first verse of this single verse acrostic poem starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Aleph. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
“But the workers are not concerned
That mortals are destined to die.
Their life is brief.
But they compete with workers
They compete with workers
They imitate workers
They count it as a glorious thing
To mold counterfeit gods.
Their heart is ashes.
Their hope is cheaper than dirt.
Their lives are of less worth than clay.
Because they failed to know
The one who formed them.
They failed to know
Who inspired them with active souls.
They failed to know
Who breathed a living spirit into them.
They considered our existence an idle game.
They considered our life a festival held for profit.
They say one must get money
However one can,
Even by base means.
For these persons,
More than all others,
Know that they sin
When they make from earthy matter fragile vessels,
When they make graven images.”
These idol makers do not care about their short lives. They are competing with other artisans making gold, silver, and copper molded items. They are making counterfeit gods. They have hearts (καρδία αὐτοῦ) like ashes and hope cheaper than dirt (γῆς). Their lives are less worthy than their own clay images. They do not know the one who formed them. They do not know the one who inspired them with a living soul (ψυχὴν). They do not know that their living spirit (πνεῦμα ζωτικόν) came from God. They consider life to be an idle game or a festival played for profit. They maintain that they need money, so that even a low base means (πορίζειν) is okay. More than others, they know that they are sinning. They make these vessels and carved images from mere earth.
“While such was the state of affairs, it happened that the people of Tarsus and of Mallus revolted because their cities had been given as a present to Antiochis, the king’s concubine. So the king went hurriedly to settle the trouble. He left Andronicus, a man of high rank, to act as his deputy. But Menelaus, thinking he had obtained a suitable opportunity, stole some of the gold vessels of the temple. He gave them to Andronicus. As it happened, he had sold other vessels to Tyre and the neighboring cities. When Onias became fully aware of these acts he publicly exposed them. He had first withdrawn to a place of sanctuary at Daphne near Antioch. Therefore Menelaus, taking Andronicus aside, urged him to kill Onias. Andronicus came to Onias. Resorting to treachery, he offered him sworn pledges and gave him his right hand. He persuaded Onias, though still suspicious, to come out from the place of sanctuary. Then, with no regard for justice, he immediately put him out of the way.”
When there was a revolt in Tarsus and Mallus because of a present to his concubine, King Antiochus IV had to go there to settle the problem. He left Andronicus as his deputy in charge. Menelaus then stole some gold vessels from the Temple and gave them to Andronicus. Menelaus then sold other vessels to Tyre and the neighboring seacoast towns. When deposed high priest Onias III heard about this he first went to an Apollo sanctuary in Daphne about 5 miles from Antioch. There he publically exposed the actions of Menelaus. Menelaus then persuaded the deputy of the king, Andronicus, to kill Onias. Andronicus tricked Onias when he swore not to hurt him, but when he came out of the sanctuary, he killed him. There was no regard for justice.
“When King Antiochus king heard this news, he was astounded and badly shaken. He took to his bed. He became sick from grief because things had not turned out for him as he had planned. He lay there for many days because deep disappointment continually gripped him. He concluded that he was dying. So he called all his friends. He said to them.
‘Sleep has departed from my eyes.
I am downhearted with worry.
I said to myself.
‘To what distress I have come!
Into what a great flood I now am plunged!
For I was kind and beloved in my power.’
But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem.
I seized all her vessels of silver and gold.
I sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judah without good reason.
I know that it is because of this
That these misfortunes have come upon me.
Here I am perishing of bitter disappointment in a strange land.’”
King Antiochus IV was astonished and shaken by the news that he heard about Judah. In quite a melodramatic way, he took to his bed because things had not turned out the way that he had planned them. He was very despondent. Thinking that he was dying, he called his friends. He tried to clear his soul with a confession to his friends. He could no longer sleep because he was so worried. He was in great distress that he himself had caused. He had been a kind and beloved king, until he went to Jerusalem. There he took the silver and gold vessels and destroyed the people of Jerusalem for no reason. He believed that all his misfortunes stemmed from that incident. Now he was going to die disappointed in a strange land, Persia.
Why was I born to see this?
The ruin of my people,
The ruin of the holy city,
I had to live there when it was given over to the enemy.
The sanctuary was given over to aliens.
Her temple has become like a person without honor.
Her glorious vessels have been carried into exile.
Her infants have been killed in her streets.
Her youth have been killed by the sword of the foe.
What nation has not inherited her palaces?
What nation has not seized her spoils?
All her adornment has been taken away.
She is no longer free.
She has become a slave.
Our holy place,
Our glory have been laid waste.
The gentiles have profaned it.
Why should we live any longer?’
Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes. They put on sackcloth. They mourned greatly.”
Once again we have poetic fragment. This one is ascribed to Mattathias as he laments the state of Jerusalem. He wanted to know why he was born and why should he live. The situation in Jerusalem was so bad with the ruin of his people and the holy city as it was given over to the alien enemy. Her sanctuary and vessels were defamed and all gone. There was no honor, as infants were killed in the streets. Young people were killed. Every nation has seized some part of her palaces. Jerusalem was not free, but a slave. The holy, beautiful places of glory lay wasted. He and his sons tore their clothes and put on sackcloth. They mourned greatly over Jerusalem with the traditional signs of mourning, ashes and sackcloth. They left their wonderful Jerusalem in shambles.