The restless sleep (Sir 40:5-40:7)

“When one rests

Upon his bed,

His sleep at night

Confuses his mind.

He gets little or no rest.

He struggles in his sleep,

As he did by day.

He is troubled

By the visions of his mind.

He is like one

Who has escaped

From the battlefield.

At the moment

He reaches safety,

He wakes up.

He is astonished

That his fears

Were groundless.”

Sirach points to the restless sleep that people have because their minds are confused. They actually get very little rest, since they are as if they were awake during the day. They struggle with troubled dreams or visions, while they try to get some restful sleep. They are like shell-shocked. They think that they are on a battlefield that they cannot escape. Yet they wake up astonished that they are safe. We might call these bad dreams or nightmares, where people are always trying to get away from someone or something.

Darkness (Wis 17:1-17:6)

“Great are your judgments.

They are hard to describe.

Therefore uninstructed souls have gone astray.

When lawless people supposed

That they held the holy nation in their power,

They themselves lay as captives of darkness.

They were prisoners of a long night.

They were shut in under their roofs.

They were exiles from eternal providence.

Thinking that in their secret sins

They were unobserved

Behind a dark curtain of forgetfulness,

They were scattered.

They were terribly alarmed.

They were appalled by specters.

Not even the inner chamber

That held them

Protected them from fear.

But terrifying sounds rang out around them.

Dismal phantoms with gloomy faces appeared.

No power of fire was able to give light.

Nor did the brilliant flames of the stars avail

To illumine that hateful night.

Nothing was shining through to them,

Except a dreadful,

Self-kindled fire.

In terror

They deemed the things which

That they saw

To be worse

Than that unseen appearance.”

This is an ode to God’s power, whose great judgment is hard to describe. The uninstructed have gone astray. The lawless (ἄνομοι) refers to Egypt, while the holy nation (ἔθνος ἅγιον) is Israel. These uninstructed lawless ones (Egypt) thought that they had the holy nation in their power. However, they were the captives of darkness. They were prisoners of the long night as they were under their own roof. They were exiles from divine providence. They thought that their secret sins would be forgotten. However, they were scattered, alarmed, and appalled. They were full of fear (ἀφόβως) in this darkness. They heard terrifying sounds and saw visions (φάσματα) of gloomy ghost faces. No fire was able to break this darkness. Nothing was shining on them except their own fear. They actually thought that things were worse than what they appeared to be.

Job bitterly complains (Job 7:11-7:21)

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.

I will speak in the anguish of my spirit.

I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

Am I the sea?

Am I a dragon?

Am I a sea monster?

Do you set a guard over me?

When I say,

‘My bed will comfort me.

My couch will ease my complaint.’

Then you scare me with dreams.

You terrify me with visions.

Thus I would choose strangling and death

Rather than this body.

I loathe my life.

I would not live forever.

Let me alone!

My days are a breath.

What are human beings?

Why do you make so much of them?

Why do you set your mind upon them?

Why do you visit them every morning?

Why do you test them every moment?

Will you not look away from me for a while?

Will you not let me alone until I swallow my spittle?

If I sin,

What do I do to you?

You are the watcher of humanity.

Why have you made me your target?

Why have I become a burden to you?

Why do you not pardon my transgression?

Why do you not take away my iniquity?

For now I shall lie in the earth.

You will seek me,

But I shall not be.”

Job would not restrain himself. He was bitter. Was he like the chaotic sea, a sea monster, a dragon or Leviathan? When he sought rest on his bed or couch, God sent him dreams and visions.   He would rather die strangled than have this terrible body. He hated his life as he did not want to live any longer. He did not want to live forever since he realized that he was like a breath. Why does God care about humans anyway? Why is he the watcher visiting them in the morning, and every moment of their lives? Job wanted God to look away for a while, so he could swallow his spittle. Why was he the target? What burden was he to God? If he had sinned, why not pardon him. Job said that God might come after him, but he would not find him, because he was no more.

The departure of Jacob for Egypt (Gen 46:1-46:7)

“When Israel set out on his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.   God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ He said, ‘Here I am.’  Then he said, I am God, the God of your father.  Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.   I myself will go down with you to Egypt and I will also bring you up again.  Joseph’s own hand shall close your eyes.’”

On the way to Egypt, Israel went to Beer-sheba and offered a sacrifice to the God of his father, Isaac.  That night Jacob had a vision.  God said that he should not be afraid to go to Egypt.  He was going to make a great nation out of him because God was with him.   His son Joseph would watch him die.

“Then Jacob set out from Beer-sheba.  The sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him.  They also took their livestock and the goods, that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and they came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters.  All his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.”

So Jacob took all his children and children’s children and their families with his livestock and provisions as he set out for Egypt.