The wise ones (Sir 20:27-20:31)

“The wise person

Advances himself

By his words.

Whoever is sensible

Will please the great men.

Whoever cultivates the soil

Will heap up their harvest.

Whoever pleases the great men

Will atone for injustice.

Favors blind the eyes of the wise.

Gifts blind the eyes of the wise.

Like a muzzle on the mouth,

They stop reproofs.

What is the value

Of hidden wisdom?

What is the value

Of an unseen treasure?

What value is either of them?

Better are those

Who hide their folly

Than those

Who hide their wisdom.”

Sirach gives us some indications about the wise people. They advance themselves by their words. They are sensible and thus please great men. They know how to cultivate the soil to get a great harvest. They atone for injustice. However, there is a down side. They should not be blinded by gifts and favors. Thus they might end up putting a muzzle on so that they stop criticizing the people who are giving these presents and favors. There is no value to hidden wisdom or unseen treasure. The foolish should hide their foolishness rather than the wise hide their wisdom.

A prayer in distress (Ps 39:1-39:6)

“To the choirmaster leader, Jeduthun, a psalm of David

I said.

‘I will guard my ways.

So that I may not sin with my tongue.

I will keep a muzzle on my mouth,

As long as the wicked are in my presence.’

I was silent and still.

I held my peace to no avail.

My distress grew worse.

My heart became hot within me.

When I mused,

The fire burned.

Then I spoke with my tongue.


Let me know my end.

What is the measure of my days?

Let me know how fleeting my life is!

You have made my days a few handbreadths.

My lifetime is as nothing in your sight.

Surely every man stands as a mere breath!”


Once again, Psalm 39 is a prayer for healing. Jeduthun was the name of one of the Levite Merari families that David appointed as music master in 1 Chronicles, chapters 16 and 25. He was a trumpet player and his sons led the music in the Temple. His name appears here and in Psalms 62 and 77. David or Jeduthun were guarding their ways. They did not want their tongue to sin so they kept a muzzle on their mouths, like vicious dogs today. One of the problems is that this psalmist did not speak out when he was in trouble. His heart burned within him. What he really wanted to know was how long his life would be. When would his days be over? He knew that his lifetime was like a breath in the life time of Yahweh. This section ends with a musical pause, a Selah.