The bad people in Jerusalem (Ezek 22:6-25:9)

“The princes of Israel

In you,

Everyone

According to his power,

Has been bent

On shedding blood.

Fathers are treated

With contempt.

Mothers are treated

With contempt

In you.

The alien,

Residing within you,

Suffers extortion.

The orphans

Are wronged

In you.

The widows

Are wronged

In you.

You have despised

My holy things.

You have profaned

My Sabbath.

There are men

In you

Who slander

To shed blood.

There are men

In you

Who eat

Upon the mountains.

Men commit lewdness

In your midst.”

A lot of bad things were happening in Jerusalem. The princes of Israel had been shedding blood. Parents, both mothers and fathers, were treated with contempt. The alien residents suffered extortion. The orphans and the widows were wronged. The people of Jerusalem have despised Yahweh’s holy things and profaned his Sabbath. They slander and shed blood. They eat on the mountains. They commit lewd actions in their midst.

The powerless idols (Bar 6:53-5:56)

“These false idols cannot

Set up a king

Over a country.

They cannot

Give rain

To people.

They cannot

Judge

Their own cause.

They cannot

Deliver anyone

Who is wronged.

They have no power.

They are like crows

Between heaven and earth.

When fire breaks out

In a temple

Of wooden gods,

Overlaid with gold

Or silver,

Their priests will flee.

They will escape.

But the gods

Will be burned up

Like timbers.

Besides,

They can offer

No resistance

To a king

Or any enemies.

Why then must

Anyone admit

Or think

That they are gods?”

This author maintains that these false idols cannot set up a king over a country. They cannot give rain to anybody. They cannot judge their own cause. They cannot deliver anyone that has been wronged, since they have no power. They are like crows in the sky. If a fire breaks out in a temple of wooden gods with gold and silver, their priests will flee and escape. However, these idol gods will be burned up like timbers. These weak false idols cannot offer any resistance to a king or any enemies. How then can you think or admit that they are gods?

Divine justice (Sir 35:13-35:21)

“The Lord is the one

Who repays.

He will repay you sevenfold.

Do not offer him a bribe!

He will not accept it.

Do not rely

On a dishonest sacrifice!

The Lord is the judge.

There is no partiality

With him.

He will not show partiality

To the poor.

He will listen to the prayer

Of one who is wronged.

He will not ignore

The supplication of the orphan.

He will not ignore

The widow

When she pours out her complains.

Do not the tears of the widow

Run down her cheek?

She cries out against those

Who have caused her to fall.

The one whose service

Is pleasing to the Lord

Will be accepted.

His prayer will reach

To the clouds.

The prayer of the humble

Pierces the clouds.

It will not rest

Until it reaches its goal.

It will not desist

Until the Most High responds.

He does justice

For the righteous.

He executes judgment.”

Sirach reminds us that the Lord repays us justly. No bribe or dishonest sacrifice will change his mind. The Lord is a judge without partiality. He listens to the prayer of those who have been wronged. He does not ignore orphans and especially crying widows who are complaining. He does accept the pleasing service of those whose prayers will go up to heaven. The prayers of the humble will pierce the clouds. They will not rest until they reach the Most High God who will respond with a righteous just judgment.

Pillar of fire for the holy ones (Wis 18:1-18:4)

“But for your holy ones

There was very great light.

Their enemies heard their voices.

But they did not see their forms.

They counted them happy

For not having suffered.

They were thankful

That your holy ones,

Though previously wronged,

Were doing them no injury.

They begged their pardon

For having been at variance with them.

Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire.

This was a guide for your people’s unknown journey.

This was also a harmless sun

For their glorious wandering.

Their enemies deserved to be deprived of light.

They deserved to be imprisoned in darkness.

They had kept your children imprisoned,

Through whom the imperishable light of the law

Was to be given to the world.”

The pillar of fire (πυριφλεγῆ στῦλον) can be found in Exodus, chapter 13. Here it seems like the Egyptians repented when they were in darkness. The Israelites were heard but not seen. The Egyptians, continually named as the enemies, were happy that these Israelites were going to leave them alone. After all, they had wronged them. Thus they asked for forgiveness and pardon for their deeds. God then provided the pillar of fire to help the Israelites on their wanderings. The enemies deserved their darkness (σκότει). They had imprisoned the children of God through whom the light of the world in the form of the law (νόμου φῶς) would be given to the world. There was this persistent theme of light and darkness. Israel was in the light. Egypt was in darkness.