Jonah was not happy (Jon 4:1-4:1)

But this was

Very displeasing

To Jonah.

He became angry.”

Not only did Jonah refuse to take on this mission originally, now he was mad that God had not followed through on his original proclamation.  He looked like a fool, since he went around screaming about the 40 days until Nineveh would be destroyed.  Now, there was to be no destruction.  Jonah was not a happy man.  He was angry.

Preparation (Sir 33:4-33:6)

“Prepare what to say!

Then you will be heard.

Draw upon your instruction!

Draw upon your training!

Give your answer!

The heart of a fool is

Like a cart wheel.

His thoughts are

Like a turning axle.

A mocking friend is

Like a stallion.

He neighs no matter

Who the rider is.”

Sirach wants you to prepare yourself before you speak. Then when you speak, others will listen to you. You should draw upon your experience, instruction, and training when you speak. Thus you can give a correct answer. On the other hand, the heart and the thoughts of a fool are like cart wheels or turning axles, just spinning around without saying or doing anything. If you have a mocking friend, he is like a stallion that sounds off against its rider, no matter who he is. So too, this fool will complain about anything you say.

Careful speech (Sir 23:12-23:15)

“There is a manner of speaking

Comparable to death.

May it never be found

In the inheritance of Jacob.

Such conduct will be far

From the godly.

They will not wallow in sins.

Do not accustom your mouth

To coarse foul language.

This involves sinful speech.

Remember your father!

Remember your mother!

Remember them

When you sit among the great ones!

Otherwise you might forget yourself

In their presence.

You might behave

Like a fool

Through bad habit.

Then you will wish

That you had never been born.

You will curse the day of your birth.

Whoever is accustomed

To use abusive language

Will never become disciplined

As long as they live.”

Sirach warns against the manner of speaking that brings death. This could be blasphemy or some profane sinful language that should never appear among the descendants of Jacob. Notice that is Jacob and not Israel. You should watch your language and not wallow in sin, since this is ungodly. Do not get accustomed to using coarse foul vulgar language. You should remember your parents whenever you are with great people. Otherwise, you might behave like a fool with bad habits. If you do, you will wish that you were never born. You will curse the day of your birth. If you get accustomed to using abusive language, you will never be disciplined in your life, no matter how long you live.

Foolish chatter (Sir 19:6-19:12)

“One who hates gossip

Has less evil.

Never repeat a conversation.

You will lose nothing at all.

With a friend,

With a foe,

Do not report it.

Unless it would be a sin for you,

Do not reveal it.

Someone may have heard you.

Someone may have watched you.

In time,

They will hate you.

Have you heard something?

Let it die with you!

Be brave!

It will not make you burst.

Having heard something,

The fool suffers birth pangs

Like a woman in labor with a child.

Like an arrow stuck in a person’s thigh,

So is gossip inside a fool.”

Gossip or idle chatter appears to be an evil. Sirach reminds you that you should not repeat a conversation with another person, whether it was your friend or your foe. The only reason for repeating a conversation would be if it was a sin not to do so. You should not reveal your conversations since somebody may have heard or seen you doing it. This then can turn into hatred. If you have heard something, just let it die. A fool, on the other hand, hears something and immediately wants to let everyone know about it. This foolish gossip person is like a woman in labor trying to deliver her baby. This fool is like someone who has an arrow stuck in his leg. He just can’t wait to get it out.

Human conduct (Sir 4:20-4:28)

“Watch for the opportune time!

Beware of evil! 

Do not be ashamed to be yourself!

There is a shame that leads to sin.

There is also a shame that is glory

There is a shame that is favor.

Do not show partiality to your own harm!

Do not show deference to your downfall!

Do not refrain from speaking at the proper moment!

Do not hide your wisdom!

Wisdom becomes known through speech.

Education becomes known

Through the words of the tongue.

Never speak against the truth.

But be ashamed of your ignorance.

Do not be ashamed to confess your sins!

Do not try to stop the current of a river!

Do not subject yourself to a fool!

Do not show partiality to a ruler!

Fight to the death for truth!

The Lord God will fight for you.”

Here we have a series of reprimands about human conduct. You should be aware of evil. You should not be ashamed of yourself. There is a shame that leads to sin, but also a shame that leads to glory and favors. Watch out for your own harm and downfall. Speak out at the proper moment. You should not hide your wisdom. People know you are wise and educated by your speech and the words of your tongue. Never go against the truth. You should be ashamed of your ignorance, but not be ashamed to confess your sins. Do not go against the river current or subject yourself to a fool. Do not show partiality to a ruler, but fight to the death for truth. God will then fight for you.

Slaves, fools, and unloved wives (Prov 30:21-30:23)

“Under three things the earth trembles.

Under four it cannot bear up.

They are

When a slave becomes king,

When a fool is glutted with food,

When an unloved woman gets a husband,

When a maid succeeds her mistress.”

Once again we are back at the numerical proverb of 3 and 4. The earth trembles. There are 4 things that this author cannot bear: 1) a slave who becomes a king, 2) a fool filled with food, 3) an unloved woman with a husband, and 4) a maid that succeeds her mistress. These seem like annoying circumstances for an elite person who does not like people moving out of their social class status. However, there is a sensibility to the unloved wife and the scorned mistress.

Foolish jealousy (Prov 27:3-27:4)

“A stone is heavy.

Sand is weighty.

But a fool’s provocation

Is heavier than both.

Wrath is cruel.

Anger is overwhelming.

But who is able to stand before jealousy?”

Stones and sands are heavy and weighty. However, a fool’s provocation is heavier than both. Wrath and anger are cruel and overwhelming, but jealousy is worse than both. Thus we have a comparison between various bad actions like provocation, wrath, anger, and jealousy.

The comparisons of a fool (Prov 26:4-26:12)

“Do not answer fools according to their folly.

Otherwise you will be a fool yourself.

Answer fools according to their folly.

Otherwise they will be wise in their own eyes.

To send a message by a fool is

Like cutting off one’s foot,

Like drinking down violence.

A proverb in the mouth of a fool is

Like legs of a disabled person that hang limp.

To give honor to a fool is

Like binding a stone in a sling.

A proverb in the mouth of a fool is

Like a thorn bush brandished

By the hand of a drunkard.

Whoever hires a passing fool is

Like an archer who wounds everybody

Whoever hires a drunkard is

Like an archer who wounds everybody.

A fool that reverts to his folly is

Like a dog that returns to its vomit.

Do you see persons wise in their own eyes?

There is more hope for fools than for them.”

This passage begins with two contradictory phrases about treating fools. The first sentence says not to answer them, but the second says to answer them. In the first instance you become a fool, while in the second case the fools will appear to become wise in their own eyes. If you send a message with a fool, you are like cutting your own foot. You are drinking violence. A proverb in the mouth of a fool is like the limp leg of a disabled person or a thorn bush in the hand of a drunkard. If you honor a fool, you are like tying a stone in a sling. If you hire a passing fool or a drunkard, you are like an archer wounding everyone in sight. Notice that the fool and the drunkard are almost equivalent. The fool reverts to his folly like a dog to its vomit. Anyone who thinks that they are wise in their own eyes is worse than a fool.

Evil men (Prov 17:11-17:15)

“Evil people seek only rebellion.

A cruel messenger will be sent against them.

Better to meet a she-bear robbed of its cubs,

Than to confront a fool immersed in folly.

Evil will not depart from the house

Of one who returns evil for good.

The beginning of strife is

Like letting out water.

So stop before the quarrel breaks out.

Whoever justifies the wicked,

Whoever condemns the righteous,

Are both alike.

They are an abomination to Yahweh.”

The evil people are rebellious. Therefore the good are in favor of the status quo. A cruel messenger will be sent to evil rebels, perhaps the angel of death. You are better off meeting a mama bear with her cubs than trying to confront a fool in his foolishness. Evil will stay in the house of those who return evil for good. A quarrel or strife is like running water. It is better to stop the quarrel before it breaks out. Whether you justify the wicked or condemn the righteous, you are both alike, an abomination before Yahweh.

Gentle tongue (Prov 15:1-15:4)

“A soft answer turns away wrath.

But a harsh word stirs up anger.

The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge.

But the mouths of fools pour out folly.

The eyes of Yahweh are in every place.

They keep watch on the evil.

They keep watch on the good.

A gentle tongue is a tree of life.

But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”

A gentile tongue or being soft spoken is the tree of life. A soft spoken person can often turn away an angry person. On the other hand, a harsh bellicose person actually stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise with his words dispenses knowledge to all. However, the mouth of a fool pours out folly and foolishness. We have to remember that Yahweh sees everything with his eyes. He keeps watch over all the good and the bad evil also. Perverse behavior breaks the spirit, while the gentile words are the source of life.