Over a thousand years later, Martin Luther, a German Augustinian religious monk and Roman Catholic priest at Wittenberg appeared. He was a bible scholar, so that biblical influences dominated him and his followers. The epistles of Paul showed that righteousness was a gift that was not earned. Faith alone, not works or even indulgences to be used in purgatory, was necessary for salvation. In 1517, he posted his printed objections, since half a century earlier the printing press had been invented. He translated and published the New Testament in German, so that people could read the Bible themselves. This led to the Protestant Reformation, which actually maintained many of the medieval Catholic practices. The Counter Reformation resulted in the Roman Catholic Council of Trent. Instead of just accepting being excommunicated, these protesters formed their own community in northern Germany and Scandinavia. Other groups also broke off from the Roman Catholic Church.
The prince can give to his sons (Ezek 46:16-46:16)
“Thus says Yahweh God!
‘If the prince
Makes a gift
To any of his sons,
Out of his inheritance,
It shall belong
To his sons.
It is their property
Yahweh, via Ezekiel, got into the question of inheritances. If the prince wanted to give a gift to any of his sons, it would then become the property of that son by inheritance, since it was out of the prince’s inheritance.
The problems in lending money (Sir 29:4-29:7)
“Many persons regard a loan
As a windfall.
This causes trouble
To those who help them.
One kisses another’s hands
Until he gets a loan.
He is very deferential
In speaking of his neighbor’s money.
But at the time
He pays back
With empty promises.
He finds fault with the time.
If he can pay,
Will hardly get back half.
The borrower will regard
That as a windfall.
If he cannot pay,
The borrower has robbed
The other of his money.
He has needlessly
Made him an enemy.
He will repay him
He will repay him
Instead of glory,
He will repay him
Many refuse to lend,
Not because of meanness,
But from fear of being defrauded needlessly.”
Sirach says that this ideal of lending money to your neighbor as giving a helping hand has a few hiccups. Some people think that the loan is a gift, so that they never pay it back. They go around being very deferential to the people with money, kissing their hands. However, when it comes time to repay the loan all they give back are empty promises. They say that they need more time. Sometimes they only pay half of it back, since they think the rest of it was a gift to them. If they do not pay it back, they have robbed their neighbor. They have needlessly made him an enemy. Curses and reproaches will follow with dishonor and anger on all sides. This had led many people to refuse to lend money because they are afraid of being defrauded. Thus there are less and less no interest loans happening.
The good and bad wife (Sir 26:22-26:27)
“A prostitute is regarded as spittle.
A married woman
Is a tower of death to her lovers.
A godless wife is given as a portion
To a lawless man.
But a pious wife is given
To a man who fears the Lord.
A shameless woman constantly
A modest daughter will even
Be embarrassed before her husband.
A headstrong wife is regarded as a dog.
But one who has a sense of shame
Will fear the Lord.
A wife honoring her husband
Will seem wise to all.
But if she dishonors him
In her pride,
She will be known to all
Happy is the husband
Of a good wife.
The number of his years
Will be doubled.
A loud voiced wife is
Like a trumpet sound.
A garrulous wife is
Like a trumpet sounding the charge.
Every person like this,
Lives in the anarchy of war.”
This section, like the preceding, does not appear in some editions. Sirach once again distinguishes between the good and the bad wife. Of course, prostitutes are like spit. A married wife who has lovers is like the tower of death to them. These godless wives belong with lawless husbands. On the other hand, a pious wife is a gift to a husband who fears the Lord. The shameless wife consistently acts disgraceful, so that even her daughter is embarrassed when her husband is around. A headstrong wife is a like a dog. She needs to be brought under control. The wife who has a sense of shame fears the Lord. Wives who honor their husbands are seen as wise. However, the ungodly wives dishonor their husbands. If a man has a good wife, as above, his life span will be doubled. A loud and talky wife is like a trumpet sound in battle. They deserve to live in a war of anarchy. Thus the humble wife is the ideal.
The ideal wife (Sir 26:13-26:18)
“A wife’s charm
Delights her husband.
Her skill puts flesh
On his bones.
A silent wife is a gift
From the Lord.
There is nothing so precious
As her self-discipline.
A modest wife
Adds charm to charm.
No scales can weigh
The value of her chastity.
Like the sun rising
In the heights of the Lord,
So is the beauty
Of a good wife,
In her well-ordered home.
Like the shining lamp
On the holy lamp stand,
So is a beautiful face
On a stately figure.
Like golden pillars
On sliver bases,
So are shapely legs
With steadfast feet.”
Sirach describes the ideal wife. Her charms delight her husband. Her skills keep him in good health. If she is silent, she is a gift from the Lord. Her self-discipline is precious. Her modesty adds further charms. There is no way to measure her chastity. Her beauty is like a sunrise on the mountains. She keeps a well ordered house. She has a beautiful face on a stately figure, like the holy lamp stand in the Temple. Her legs and feet are like golden pillars on silver bases. Thus we have the ideal wife, charming, disciplined, orderly, and beautiful. There is no indication where you might find such a women.
The foolish giver (Sir 20:13-20:17)
“The wise make themselves beloved
By only a few words.
But the courtesies of fools are wasted.
A fool’s gift will profit nothing.
So it is with the envious
Who give under compulsion.
He looks for recompense sevenfold.
He has many eyes instead of one.
He gives little.
He upbraids much.
He opens his mouth
Like a town crier.
Today he lends.
Tomorrow he asks it back.
Such a one is a hateful man.
Such a one is hateful to God.
Such a one is hateful to humans.
The fool says.
‘I have no friends.
I get no thanks for my good deeds.
Those who eat my bread
How many will ridicule him!
How often will they ridicule him!”
Wise people can make themselves loved with a few words. However, fools have a difficult time. Courtesies and gifts do not bring them any gain. The same is true of the envious people that are forced to give a gift. They are looking for a reward. These fools are looking to be compensated. They are looking all over with their many eyes. They give little. They are always criticizing. They are like town criers, shouting all the time. One day they lend things. Then the next day, they want them back again. These fools are hateful people to God and their fellow humans. These foolish people think that they have no friends. They get no thanks for their good deeds. They think that the people who eat with them are evil people. Thus they are often ridiculed by many people.
Paradoxes (Sir 20:9-20:12)
“There may be good fortune
For a man in adversity.
A windfall may result in a loss.
There is the gift
That profits you nothing.
There is the gift
That has to be paid back double.
There are losses
For the sake of glory.
There are some
Who have raised their heads
From humble circumstances.
Some buy much for little.
But they pay for it
Seven times over.”
When you are in adversity, you may find a good fortune. A windfall profit might result in a later loss for you. You may get a gift that does not help you. Sometimes you may have to give back twice as much as the gift you received. For the sake of glory, people will lose things. Some people have raised themselves from humble beginnings. There are times when you get a lot for your money, but then you might have to pay it back seven times as much.
The prudent wife (Prov 19:13-19:14)
“A stupid child is the ruin to a father.
A wife’s quarreling is like a continual dripping of rain.
House and wealth are inherited from parents.
But a prudent wife is from Yahweh.”
A stupid child can ruin his father. The quarreling wife is like continual dripping rain. You can inherit your house and wealth from your parents, but a prudent wife is a gift from God.
The poor (Prov 19:1-19:7)
“Better the poor walking in integrity
Than one perverse in speech
Who is a fool!
Desire without knowledge is not good.
Whoever moves too hurriedly misses the way.
One’s own folly leads to ruin.
Yet the heart rages against Yahweh.
Wealth brings many new friends.
But the poor are left friendless.
A false witness will not go unpunished.
A liar will not escape.
Many seek the favor of the generous.
Everyone is a friend to a giver of gifts.
If the poor are hated by their relatives,
How much more are they shunned by their friends.
When they call after them,
They are not there.”
This is a mixed bag for the poor. It is better to be poor if you are honest and have integrity. However later on, you are without friends and relatives if you are poor. The poor never catch a break. Of course, it is better to be poor than be a perverse fool in your speech. Desire is not good enough. You need knowledge. Don’t go too fast or you will get lost. Foolishness will lead to ruin. The foolish heart rages against Yahweh. Wealth, as noted, brings friends, while the poor are stuck without friends. Liars will not escape from punishment. They will die. The reason the rich have so many friends is that many seek their favor, hoping to get a gift or two from the wealthy. The poor have a problem with relatives and friends who do not stand up for them when they call. It is not good to be poor, even if you are honest.
Haman proposes his plan to the king (Esth 3:8-3:9)
“Then Haman said to King Artaxerxes.
‘There is a certain people scattered,
Among the other people in the provinces of your kingdom.
Their laws are different from those of every other people.
They do not keep the king’s laws.
It is not expedient for the king to tolerate them.
If it pleases the king,
Let it be decreed that they are to be destroyed.
I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the king’s treasure.’”
Haman went to the king with his plan. He never mentions the Jews by name here. Obviously, picking on a minority group is always a safe bet. Haman said these people were different from every other people, so let us get rid of them. Have you ever heard that before? Their laws are different so that they do not follow the king’s laws. He did not think that the king should tolerate them. However, the kings of Persia were in fact, very tolerant. They were not seeking a uniform standard for the 127 provinces. Now the kicker comes. If it pleased the king, send out a decree to have them destroyed. Haman, who apparently was rich, offered to pay 10,000 talents of silver, worth approximately $60,000,000.00 USA, to the king’s treasury. Was this a bribe or a gift? That is always difficult to determine.