Harvesting (Isa 28:7-28:29)

“Dill herbs are not threshed

With a threshing sledge.

Nor is a cart wheel rolled over carrot seeds.

But the dill herbs are beaten out with a stick.

The carrot seeds are beaten with a rod.

Grain is crushed for bread.

But one does not thresh it forever.

One drives the cart wheel with horses over it.

But he does not pulverize it.

This also comes from Yahweh of hosts.

He is wonderful in counsel.

He is excellent in wisdom.”

Each crop has a different form of harvesting. The dill herbs and carrot seeds are too fragile to be smashed with a threshing sledge hammer. You do not roll the cart wheels over the herbs and seeds like you do to the wheat and the barley. You beat the herbs and seeds with a stick or a rod that is gentler than the wheel cart. However, the threshing of the wheat and barley requires a heavy horse drawn cart wheel in order to provide grain for bread. However, you do not want to pulverize these grains into nothing. How do these farmers know how to do this? Why, the Lord of hosts, Yahweh has told them how to do it. Yahweh is wonderful in his counsel and excellent in his wisdom, as in the later wisdom tradition.

Thanksgiving prayer (Isa 25:1-25:5)

“O Yahweh!

You are my God!

I will exalt you!

I will praise your name!

You have done wonderful things,

Plans formed of old,

Faithful and sure.

You have made the city a heap.

The fortified city has become a ruin.

The palace of aliens

Is a city no more.

It will never be rebuilt.

Therefore strong people

Will glorify you.

Cities of ruthless nations

Will fear you.

You have been a refuge

To the poor,

To the needy in their distress.

You have been a shelter

From the rainstorm.

You have been a shade

From the heat.

The blast of the ruthless was

Like a winter rainstorm.

The noise of aliens was

Like heat in a dry place.

You subdued the heat

With the shade of clouds.                                                        

The song of the ruthless was stilled.”

Isaiah gives thanks and praise to Yahweh because he has done wonderful faithful and sure things from of old as there are echoes of the acrostic Psalm 145. Then there is a turn to an unnamed ruined fortified city, where the palace of the aliens or foreigners was destroyed, never to be rebuilt again. There is no indication where this city was. Some people will glorify Yahweh, while other ruthless people will fear him. Yahweh has been a refuge to the poor and the needy in their time of distress. Yahweh was their shelter against the ruthless winter rainstorm and a shade in the hot sunny days against the noise of the aliens or foreigners. Yahweh was able to subdue the heat with his shady clouds. He was able to still the song of the ruthless. Thus Yahweh was their protector against the rain and the heat of ruthless people.

Necessities of life (Sir 29:21-29:24)

“The necessities of life are

Water,

Bread,

And Clothing.

You also need a house

To assure privacy.

Better is the life

Of the poor,

Under their own crude roof,

Than sumptuous food

In the house of others.

Be content with little or much.

It is a miserable life

To go from house to house.

As a guest,

You should not open your mouth.”

Sirach indicates the necessities of life are water, bread, and clothing, something to eat, drink, and wear. However, he adds a fourth, a place to live, that is a house that will assure your privacy. He points out that it is better to be in your own crude house than have wonderful food in someone else’s house. You should be content with your life, whether you have much or little. It is a miserable way to live in moving from house to house without a permanent residence. If you are a guest, you should keep your mouth shut.

The beauty and aroma of wisdom (Sir 24:15-24:17)

“‘Like cassia,

Like camel’s thorn,

I gave forth perfume.

I spread my fragrance,

Like choice myrrh,

Like galbanum,

Like onycha,

Like stacte,

Like the odor of incense in the tabernacle.

Like a terebinth,

I spread out my branches.

My branches are glorious.

My branches are graceful.

Like the vine

I bud forth delights.

My blossoms become glorious fruit.

My blossoms become abundant fruit.”

Sirach continued with his personification of wisdom. Here wisdom compares herself to various fragrances and fruit trees. First, she uses the fragrances of cassia, a kind of cinnamon bark, and camel’s thorn, a sweet coffee smell. Then there are fragrances that came from the gum resins of trees that became the incense used in the Temple, myrrh, galbanum, onycha, and stacte. Thus wisdom smelt like the incense used in the Jerusalem Temple tabernacle. Just as the terebinth tree spread its branches, so too, wisdom seemed to have wide branches. She was also like vines and blossoms on a fruit tree. Wisdom was then beautiful to look at and wonderful to smell.

The difference between the rich and the humble (Sir 13:21-13:24)

“When the rich person totters,

He is supported by friends.

But when a humble person falls,

He is pushed away

Even by friends.

If the rich person slips,

Many come to his rescue.

If he speaks unseemly words,

They justify him.

If the humble person slips,

They even criticize him.

If he talks sense,

He is not given a hearing.

When the rich person speaks,

All are silent.

They extol to the clouds

What he says.

When the poor person speaks,

They say.

‘Who is this fellow?’

Should he stumble,

They even push him down.

Riches are good

If they are free from sin.

Poverty is evil

Only in the opinion of the ungodly.”

Sirach points out the different attitudes that we have toward the rich and the poor. We tolerate and encourage bad behavior by rich people, but we put down the good behavior of poor people. If a rich person totters a little bit, everyone will come to help him. If a humble poor person slips, his friends push him away. Everyone tries to justify the unseemly words of the rich. However, they will criticize the words of the poor, even if they make a lot of good sense. No one will listen to the poor, but everyone is silent when the rich speak. They will say how wonderful he is. On the other hand, when the poor person speaks, they will ask, who is this guy anyway. If a poor person stumbles, they will push him down further. The only way that rich can be good, is if they are free from sin. In fact, the ungodly think that poverty is evil. It is a tough life if you are poor, but everyone will cover your mistakes if you are rich, because you have “affluenza”.

Do not judge on appearances (Sir 11:2-11:4)

“Do not praise individuals

For their good looks!

Do not loathe anyone

Because of appearance alone.

The bee is small

Among flying creatures.

But what it produces

Is the best of sweet things.

Do not boast

About wearing fine clothes!

Do not exalt yourself

When you are honored.

The works of the Lord

Are wonderful.

His works

Are concealed from humankind.”

You should not praise people because of their good looks. On the other hand, you should not hate anyone based on their appearances alone. Take the small bee, for example. This small flying creature produces honey, the sweetest of all things. There was a premium on honey in ancient times. You should not boast about wearing fine clothes. Do not exalt yourself when you are honored. The works of the Lord are wonderful, but he has concealed them from most humans.

Understanding (Prov 30:18-30:19)

“Three things are too wonderful for me.

Four things I do not understand.

They are

The way of an eagle in the sky,

The way of a serpent on a rock,

The way of a ship on the high seas,

And the way of a man with a girl.”

Once again we have the numeric formula of 3 and 4. The 4 things that he cannot understand, even though they are wonderful, are: 1) a flying eagle, 2) a serpent on a rock, 3) a ship sailing on the high seas, and 4) the sexual encounter of a man and a girl.