The coming wrath (Lk 3:7-3:7)

“John said

To the crowds

That came out

To be baptized

By him.

‘You brood of vipers!

Who warned you

To flee

From the wrath

To come?’”

 

Ἔλεγεν οὖν τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ὄχλοις βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ Γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, τίς ὑπέδειξεν ὑμῖν φυγεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς;

 

Luke then presented the teachings of John that can be found in all 4 gospel stories.  Notice how this teaching lines up with what Jesus would say.  Matthew, chapter 3:8, has something similar but it was directed at the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were coming to be baptized by John.  Mark and John do not have anything about this “brood of vipers.”  Luke indicated that John spoke to all the crowds who were coming out to be baptized by him (Ἔλεγεν οὖν τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ὄχλοις βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ), not just a select few people.  John told them that they were like a group of vipers (Γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν) who would kill young people.  Vipers were poisonous snakes or reptiles.  Who warned them to flee from the wrath to come (τίς ὑπέδειξεν ὑμῖν φυγεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς)?  This might be a saying from the so-called Q source, since both Matthew and Luke have the exact same wording.  It might also be an allusion to the prophet Amos, chapter 5:18-20.  Amos saw the day of Yahweh as an angry day of judgment.

The serpents (Mt 23:33-23:33)

“You snakes!

You brood of vipers!

How can you

Escape

Being sentenced

To Gehenna?”

 

ὄφεις, γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, πῶς φύγητε ἀπὸ τῆς κρίσεως τῆς γεέννης;

 

This attack on the Pharisees and Scribes is somewhat similar to the attack that John the Baptist had against the Pharisees and Sadducees earlier in Matthew, chapter 3:7.  When they came to be baptized by John, he was critical of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  He told them that they were like a group of vipers or poisonous snakes (Γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν), who would kill young people.  Here there is no mention of the Sadducees.  But the Pharisees and Scribes are called snakes (ὄφεις) and a brood of vipers or a group of poisonous snakes (γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν).  Jesus wanted to know how they could escape (πῶς φύγητε) being sentenced to Gehenna or hell (ἀπὸ τῆς κρίσεως τῆς γεέννης).  The Greek word for hell “γέενναν” or the English Gehenna was based on the Hebrew word Gehinnom that was the name of the valley south of Jerusalem where burning child sacrifices would take place.

Sentimental Bible interpretations

When you ask young people what they know about the Bible, they might be able to sing the little Bible song, “How do you know that Jesus loves you?  I know that Jesus loves me, because the Bible tells me so.”  Most of us have this sentimental approach to the Bible as a book with a lot of nice stories about Adam and Eve, Moses, and Jesus, but very little else.

Powerful providence (Isa 40:27-40:31)

“Why do you say?

O Jacob!

Speak!

O Israel!

‘My way is hidden from Yahweh.

My right is disregarded by my God!’

Have you not known?

Have you not heard?

Yahweh is the everlasting God.

He is the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint.

He does not grow weary.

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint.

He strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint.

They will be weary.

Young men shall fall exhausted.

But those who wait for Yahweh

Shall renew their strength.

They shall mount up

With wings

Like eagles.

They shall run.

They shall not be weary.

They shall walk.

They shall not faint.”

This chapter concludes with a shout out to the great providence of God. Do not be concerned that God does not know about you. Yahweh is an everlasting God, the creator of everything. Although he is unsearchable, he does not grow faint or weary in his understanding of you. He gives power to the faint. He strengthens the powerless. Even if some young people grow faint, weary, and exhausted, anyone who waits for Yahweh will find renewed strength. They will fly with wings like they were eagles. They will run and not be weary. They will walk and not be faint. They just need to trust Yahweh, their God.

The discipline of wisdom (Sir 6:18-6:22)

“My child!

From your youth,

Choose discipline.

When you have gray hair,

You will still find wisdom.

Come to her like one who plows.

Come to her like one who sows.

Wait for her good harvest.

When you cultivate her,

You will toil but little.

Soon you will eat of her produce.

She seems very harsh to the undisciplined.

Fools cannot remain with her.

She will be like a heavy stone to test them.

They will not delay in casting her aside.

Wisdom is like her name.

She is not really perceived by many.”

Once again, Sirach has a series of admonitions about wisdom. The young people should choose discipline. Even when they have gray hair, they should still seek wisdom. You have to have the discipline to plow and sow in order to get a good harvest of wisdom. You do not have to work too hard to eat of her products. However, this seems very harsh to the undisciplined since fools cannot remain with her. She seems to be a test like a heavy stone to these foolish undisciplined ones. The name of wisdom implies that only a few, not many people, will actually perceive her.

Religious vows (Prov 20:25-20:30)

“It is a snare for one to say rashly.

‘It is holy.’

Then only begin to reflect after making a vow.

A wise king winnows the wicked.

He drives the wheel over them.

The human spirit is the lamp of Yahweh.

It searches every innermost part.

Loyalty and faithfulness preserve the king.

His throne is upheld by righteousness.

The glory of young men is their strength.

The beauty of the aged is their gray hair.

Blows that wound

Cleanse away evil.

Strokes make clean the innermost parts.”

Watch out for snares or traps. When someone thinks that something is holy and then makes a vow, they might be caught because only later do they think about what they just agreed to do. A wise king winnows or gets rid of the wicked ones. Then he drives a wheel over them. The human spirit is like God’s lamp that searches his most inner part. If the king is loyal and faithful he will preserve himself. Righteousness keeps the king on his throne. The glory of young people is their strength. However, the aged are beautiful because of their wonderful gray hair. Any blows that wound people clean up any evil in them. These strokes clean the innermost parts of their human bodies. This seems like an argument for corporal punishment.

The upright man (Prov 2:20-2:22)

“Therefore walk in the way of good people.

Keep to the paths of the just.

The upright will inhabit the land.

The innocent ones of integrity will remain in it.

But the wicked will be cut off from the land.

The treacherous will be rooted out of it.”

The young people were to walk in the way of the good people. Thus they would become upright and righteous as they kept to the path of the just ones. The upright will then inherit, inhabit, and abide in the land. The innocent ones who live with integrity will remain on the land. However, the wicked ones will be cut off from the land. The liars and the treacherous infidels will be rooted out of the land. Notice that the big reward and punishment is the land.

Prayer to keep the commandments (Ps 119:9-119:16)

Bet

“How can young people keep their way pure?

They guard it according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you.

Do not let me stray from your commandments.

I treasure your word in my heart.

Thus I may not sin against you.

Blessed be you!

Yahweh!

Teach me your statutes!

With my lips I declare

All the ordinances of your mouth.

I delight in the way of your decrees.

I delight as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts.

I will fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in thy statutes.

I will not forget your word.”

This psalmist asked Yahweh to help him keep his commandments. He asked the basic question that keeps coming up today. How can the young people keep a pure way? How can they keep your word? The psalmist maintained that he was trying not to stray from Yahweh’s commandments with his whole heart. Once again, he personally wanted to learn more about the statutes of Yahweh. Using the first person singular, he wanted to delight in Yahweh’s commandment like others delight in riches. He wanted to meditate on the statutes of Yahweh so that he would not forget them. Thus this section on the second consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Bet, comes to an end.

The present distress of Job (Job 30:1-30:8)

“But now they make sport of me.

Those who are younger than I,

Whose fathers I would have disdained

To have them set with the dogs of my flock.

What could I gain from the strength of their hands?

All their vigor is gone.

Through want and hard hunger

They gnaw the dry and desolate ground.

They pick mallow and the leaves of bushes,

They pick the roots of the broom to warm themselves.

They are driven out from society.

People shout after them as after a thief.

They must live in the gullies of the Wadi torrents.

They must live in the holes of the earth.

They must live in the holds of the rocks.

Among the bushes they bray.

Under the nettles they huddle together.

A senseless, a disreputable brood,

They have been whipped out of the land.”

The difference between then and now is evident. Job instead of being a distinguished member of the community he was now derided. Now even the outcasts of society ridiculed him. Young people, whose fathers Job would have had them sit with his dogs watching his flock, are now making fun of him. Job was no longer strong. He then colorfully described the indigent homeless society of people who were making fun of him. These were the people who gnaw at the dry ground and eat in the salt marshes near the Dead Sea. They warm themselves with the roots of brooms, a shrub that grows in regions of that area. People shout after them as if they were thieves. They live along the river banks, the holes in the ground and in the caves. They huddle together like a senseless disreputable brood of people that have been sent away from the land.