Oracle on the desert animals (Isa 30:6-30:7)

“An oracle concerning

The animals of the Negeb.

Through a land

Of trouble,

Of distress,

Of the lioness.

Of the roaring lion,

Of the viper,

Of the flying serpent,

They carry their riches

On the backs of donkeys.

They carry their treasures

On the humps of camels,

To a people

That cannot profit them.

Egypt’s help is worthless.

Their help is empty.

Therefore I have called her

‘Rahab who sits still.’”

This seems to be an oracle by Yahweh about the animals in the Negeb desert, south of Israel. The messengers of the King of Judah were going to pass by these animals as they went with their riches on the backs of donkeys and treasures on the camel humps on their way to Egypt. Along the way, they would suffer trouble and distress. They would see many animals, like lioness, lions, vipers, and flying serpents. However, Isaiah says that their mission was worthless and empty. It was a waste of time since the Egyptians could not help them. In fact, Isaiah calls Egypt a useless sitting still ‘Rahab,’ a mythological sea monster like the Leviathan monster.

More paradoxes (Sir 34:28-34:31)

“When one builds,

Another tears down.

What do they gain

But hard work?

When one prays,

Another curses.

To whose voice

Will the Lord listen?

If one washes

After touching a corpse,

Then touches it again,

What has he gained

By his washing?

So if one fasts

For his sins,

Then goes again

And does the same things,

Who will listen

To his prayer?

What has he gained

By humbling himself?”

Sirach cites various paradoxes in life. One man builds and another tears it down. What is this except a waste of time and labor for both of them? Who does the Lord listen to, if one person prays and the other curses? If you wash after touching a dead body, then you go and touch it again, what was the point of washing in the first place? If you fast for your sins, and then go out again and sin, who would listen to your prayers? What did you gain by humbling yourself?

Teaching a fool (Sir 22:9-22:10)

“Whoever teaches a fool is

Like one who glues potsherds together.

Whoever teaches a fool is

Like one who rouses a sleeper

From deep slumber.

Whoever tells a story to a fool

Tells it to a drowsy man.

At the end

He will say.

‘What is it?’”

Sirach says that whoever tries to teach a fool is like one trying to glue pieces of a broken pottery jar back together. Potsherds are broken pottery pieces. Thus this task would be like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Teaching a fool is like trying to wake someone up from a deep sleep. Even telling a story is useless, because the fool is like a half-asleep drowsy person who says at the end of the story, “What was that again?” Basically, trying to teach a fool is a waste of time. However, it is not totally impossible, but extremely difficult and challenging.