Joy (Sir 30:21-30:25)

“Do not give yourself over

To sorrow!

Do not distress yourself deliberately!

A joyful heart is life itself.

Rejoicing lengthens

One’s life span.

Indulger yourself!

Take comfort!

Remove sorrow far from you!

Sorrow has destroyed many.

No advantage ever comes from it.

Jealousy shortens life.

Anger shortens life.

Anxiety brings on premature old age.

Whoever is cheerful at table,

Whoever is merry at table,

Will benefit from their food.”

Sirach reminds us not to give into sorrow. Do not deliberately distress yourself. If you are happy, you will lengthen your lifespan. Indulge yourself and take comfort in what you do. Stay away from sorrow, because it has destroyed many people, since there is no advantage to being sorrowful. Jealousy and anger will shorten your life. Anxiety brings on old age prematurely. Look at all the happy old people. If you are cheerful and merry when you eat, the food will seem that much better.

The problems of surety (Sir 29:14-29:20)

“A good person

Will be surety

For his neighbor.

But the one who has lost

All sense of shame

Will fail him.

Do not forget

The kindness of your guarantor.

He has given his life for you.

A sinner wastes

The property of his guarantor.

The ungrateful person

Abandons his rescuer.

Being surety

Has ruined many

Who were prosperous.

It has tossed them about

Like waves on the sea.

It has driven the influential

Into exile.

They have wandered

Among foreign nations.

The sinner comes to grief

Through surety.

His pursuit of gain

Involves him in lawsuits.

Assist your neighbor

To the best of your ability.

But be careful

Not to fall yourself.”

Surety is guaranteeing of a loan or the collateral for a loan. Obviously, a good kind person will guarantee a loan for his neighbor. However, there are shameful people out there who will take advantage of this generous guarantee. A sinner and an ungrateful person will waste this guarantee. They will abandon their rescuer. Sirach says that guaranteeing loans for others has led many a prosperous person to be ruined and tossed about like waves on the sea. Some have been exiled and wander from country to country. Quite often the sinner and his actions lead to law suits. Sirach then ends with this cautionary note that you should try to help your neighbor as much as possible, but be careful and not fall yourself.

The clever ones (Sir 19:23-19:30)

“There is cleverness

That is detestable.

There is a fool

Who merely lacks wisdom.

Better are the God-fearing

Who lacks understanding

Than the highly intelligent

Who transgresses the law.

There is cleverness

That is exact

But unjust.

There are people

Who abuse favors

To gain a verdict.

There is a villain

Bowed down in mourning.

But inwardly

He is full of deceit.

He hides his face.

He pretends not to hear.

But when no one notices,

He will take advantage of you.

Even if he lacks strength

It does not keep him from sinning.

He will nevertheless do evil

When he finds the opportunity.

A person is known

By his appearance.

A sensible person is known

When first met,

Face to face.

A person’s attire shows what he is.

His hearty laughter shows what he is.

The way he walks shows what he is.”

Sirach then attacks the clever ones with their cleverness, who are really detestable fools who lack wisdom. It is better to be a God fearing person without intelligence than an intelligent transgressor of the law. There are exacting clever people who are unjust. These clever people use the legal system to avoid a bad verdict. They pretend to bow down before you, but there is only deceit in their hearts. They pretend not to hear and not to care, until the right time comes along. Then they take advantage of you. Even if these clever fools are not strong, they will try to do as much evil as they can. They will find any opportunity to be wicked. Look at the appearances of people. See what clothes they are wearing. See how they laugh and walk. Thus you can spot these clever wicked fools.

Stay with your own kind (Sir 13:15-13:20)

“Every creature loves its like.

Every person loves his neighbor.

All living beings associate

With their own kind.

People stick close to those

Like themselves.

What does a wolf have in common

With a lamb?

No more has a sinner anything in common

With the devout.

What peace is there

Between a hyena and a dog?

What peace is there

Between the rich and the poor?

Wild asses in the wilderness

Are the prey of lions.

Likewise the poor

Are feeding grounds for the rich.

Humility is an abomination

To the proud.

Likewise the poor are an abomination

To the rich.”

Sirach tells us that people and creatures like to stick with their own kind. There is a natural born prejudice to stay with your own kind of people. Everybody usually loves their neighbors. Why else would they live there? A wolf and a lamb have nothing in common, just like the sinner and the devout do not have anything in common. There can never be peace between hyenas and dogs, so too the animosity between rich and poor cannot be bridged. Wild donkeys are the prey of lions, so too are the poor the feeding grounds of the rich. The rich take advantage of the poor. The proud hate the humble, just like the rich hate the poor.

Wicked actions (Wis 2:10-2:11)

“Let us oppress the righteous poor man!

Let us not spare the widow!

Let us not regard the gray hairs of the aged!

But let our might be our law of right!

What is weak proves itself to be useless.”

Unlike Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes, this author believed that the impious would do wicked deeds. These impious ones wanted to oppress the righteous poor people (πένητα δίκαιον), take advantage of the widows (χήρας), and not respect the aged (πρεσβύτου) with their gray hair. For them, might and strength was only the law (νόμος) to prove who was right. The weak were useless. Only the strong survive.

Be careful in what you do (Eccl 10:8-10:11)

“Whoever digs a pit

Will fall into it.

Whoever breaks through a wall,

Will be bitten by a snake.

Whoever quarries stones

Will be hurt by them.

Whoever splits logs

Will be endangered by them.

If the iron is blunt,

If one does not whet the edge,

Then more strength must be exerted.

But wisdom helps one to succeed.

If the serpent bites before it is charmed,

There is no advantage in a charmer.”

Here Qoheleth offers more wise advice. If you dig a pit, you probably will fall into it. If you break through a wall, you might find a snake ready to bite you on the other side. If you dig out stones, you might be hurt by them. If you split logs, they could hurt you. If you have a blunt edge and you do not sharpen it, you will have to use more force. Wisdom can help you to succeed. What is the advantage of being a snake charmer if the snake bites you before you can charm it?

The appetites of humans (Eccl 6:7-6:9)

“‘All the toil of man is for the mouth.

Yet the appetite is not satisfied.’

What advantage has the wise ones

Over the fools?

What do the poor have?

They know how to conduct themselves

Before the living.

Better is the sight of the eyes

Than the wandering of desire.

This also is vanity.

This is chasing after wind.”

Qoheleth believes that the reason that people work is so that they can have something to eat. However, the problem is that the appetite for food is never satisfied. What advantage does the wise person have over the foolish person? In fact, the poor people know how to conduct themselves. Then Qoheleth warns against wandering desires. After all, remember that this is all vanity and chasing after the wind that cannot be caught.

Oppression (Eccl 5:8-5:9)

“If you see in a province

The oppression of the poor

If you see

The violation of justice,

The violation of rights,

Do not be amazed at the matter.

The high official

Is watched by a higher.

There are yet higher ones

Over them.

But all things considered,

There is an advantage

To a land

To have a king

For a plowed field.”

In a strange sort of remark, Qoheleth says to watch out for oppression. However, he does not seem to ask for any kind of action. If someone is oppressed and there is injustice, just don’t be amazed. Someone is in charge. They have to report to someone else even higher up. It is good to have a bureaucracy. They will take care of things like that. After all, there is an advantage in having a king to rule over cultivated or plowed fields. You can avoid the minor skirmishes that take place.

Humans and animals (Eccl 3:18-3:21)

“I said in my heart

With regard to humans

That God is testing them

To show

That they are but animals.

‘The fate of humans,

The fate of animals

Is the same.

As one dies,

So does the other.

They all have the same breath.

Humans have no advantage

Over the animals.

All is vanity.

All go to one place.

All are from dust.

All turn to dust again.

Who knows

Whether the human spirit

Goes upward?

Who knows

Whether the spirit of animals

Goes downward to the earth?’”

Qoheleth makes a comparison of humans to animals. He does not see much difference. They both share the same fate. They both die. The humans try in vain to show that they more than animals. However, they have no advantage, since all is vanity. They both come from and go to dust. Do they go to the same place? Do humans really go up and animals go down? Qoheleth sees a spirit in both humans and animals. So we are left with this dilemma of the afterlife of humans and animals.

The wise ones and the fools both die (Eccl 2:14-2:17)

“Yet I perceived

That one fate befalls all of them.

Then I said to myself.

‘What happens to the fool

Will happen to me also.

Why then have I been so very wise?’

I said to myself

That this also is vanity.

There is no enduring remembrance

Of the wise

Or of the fools.

In the days to come,

All will have been long forgotten.

How can the wise die just like fools?

So I hated life,

Because what is done under the sun

Was grievous to me.

All is vanity.

All is a chasing after wind.”

Having accepted the importance of wisdom, Qoheleth then realizes that he, the wise one, and the fools also will both die. They share the same fate. What then is the advantage to being a wise person? No one remembers the fools, but everyone will also forget about the wise ones. Even this wise life is in vain. Why do they both share the same result as dead forgotten people? Now he begins to hate life itself, as an element of despair like Job. He thought that this was injurious to him, since all was futile. He and the wise ones were just chasing after that unattainable wind.