The high priest Simon the builder (Sir 50:1-50:4)

“Simon the high priest,

Son of Onias,

Was the leader

Of his brothers.

He was

The pride of his people.

In his life

He repaired the house.

In his time,

He fortified the temple.

He laid the foundations

For the high double walls.

These were

The high retaining walls

For the temple enclosure.

In his days,

A water cistern was dug.

He made a reservoir

Like the sea in circumference.

He considered

How to save his people

From ruin.

He fortified the city

Against any siege.”

Sirach ends his work with a whole chapter about the high priest Simon, son of Onias. Who is this guy and why is he important? This high priest Simon is Simeon the just or the righteous one. He may have been one of the last members of the questionable Great Assembly. There is a question whether he was Simeon I (310-273) or Simeon II (220-195) since both their fathers were called Onias. The general consensus today is that it is the later which would make him a contemporary of Sirach. Maybe that is why he got so much ink. He certainly was a leader among his fellow priests and a source of pride for the people. He repaired and fortified the Temple, always a good thing to do. He put down some foundations to make the walls higher around the Temple. He helped to build a large reservoir of water for the city. He tried to save his people from ruin so that he fortified the city against any kind of siege.

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