Children (Sir 7:22-7:25)

“Do you have cattle?

Look after them.

If they are profitable to you,

Keep them.

Do you have children?

Discipline them.

Make them obedient from their youth.

Do you have daughters?

Be concerned for their chastity.

Do not show yourself too indulgent with them.

Give a daughter in marriage.

You will have completed a great task.

But give her to a sensible man.”

Sirach continued with his recommendations on how to handle children. However, he also mentioned cattle. If you had cattle take care of them if they profitable. If not, get rid of them. If you have children, there is a clear directive, discipline them. There is no alternative. They have to be obedient from their youth. If you have daughters, you have to protect their chastity. There is no such recommendation for the sons. You should not indulge your daughters. Your task, as a father, was to get your daughter married to a sensible man. If you did that you had accomplished a great task. However, there is no demand on you to have your son have a good marriage.

The vanity of hard work (Eccl 2:18-2:23)

“I hated all my toil

In which I had toiled under the sun.

I must leave it to

Those who will come after me.

Who knows

Whether they will be a wise or foolish?

Yet they will be

Master of all for which I toiled.

I used my wisdom under the sun.

This also is vanity.

So I turned about.

I gave my heart up to despair

Concerning all the toil of

My labors under the sun.

Sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom,

Toiled with knowledge,

Toiled with skill,

Must leave all to be enjoyed by another

Who did not toil for it.

This also is vanity.

This is a great evil.

What do mortals get from all the toil?

What do mortals gat from the strain

With which they toil under the sun?

All their days are full of pain.

Their work is a vexation.

Even at night

Their minds do not rest.

This also is vanity.”

Now Qoheleth addressed the problem of hard work. What is its value? He had been a hard working wise man, but he would have to leave all his work to those who would come after him. There was no telling if they would be wise or foolish, but still they would be in charge of all his things. He then realized that with all his wisdom under the sun, everything that he had accomplished was in vain. He then fell into despair, much like Job. He would not enjoy the fruit of his hard work. He had worked with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, but he had to leave the results of his work to be enjoyed by those who would not work hard. This is the problem with parents who work hard to see their children succeed, only to have them dissipate their life away. This painful useless work is a great evil. He wanted to know if there was a reward for this hard work. This work was nothing but a painful troubling vexation that kept him from sleeping at night. Hard work was useless, in vain, vanity itself. This is a very strong indictment against hard work.

The decree is against one group of disruptive people (Greek text only)

“I asked my counselors how this peace might be accomplished. Haman excels among us in sound judgment. He is distinguished for his unchanging good will and steadfast fidelity. Thus he has attained the second place in the kingdom. He pointed out to us that among all the nations in the world there is scattered a certain hostile people, who have laws contrary to those of every nation. They continually disregard the ordinances of kings. Thus the unifying of the kingdom that we honorably intend cannot be brought about. We understand that this people and it alone, stands constantly in opposition to every nation, perversely following a strange manner of life and laws. They are ill-disposed to our government. They do all the harm they can so that our kingdom may not attain stability.”

This great peaceful king asked his counselors how peace could be achieved and maintained. His number two man, Haman had sound judgment, good will, and fidelity. He pointed out that there was one ethnic group of people scattered among the 127 provinces who were hostile to all the over nations and people. They disregarded the royal ordinances. They have a strange perverse life style with their own laws. They do not like our government and they are ruining any stability that we might attain. Interesting enough, these Persian kings were tolerant and not looking for uniformity. In fact, these are like many of the complaints against the Jews in the later Hellenistic period thus indicating its origin. There is no indication that Persians ever disliked the Jews, since Nehemiah was a cup bearer as a Jew to this same king. Clearly this is the work of Haman who disliked a certain group of so-called outsiders. However, there is no specific mention of Jews in this Greek text.