“When you are praying,
Do not heap up empty phrases,
As the gentiles do.
That they will be heard
Because of their many words.
Do not be like them!
Your Father knows
What you need
Before you ask him.”
Προσευχόμενοι δὲ μὴ βατταλογήσητε ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί· δοκοῦσιν γὰρ ὅτι ἐν τῇ πολυλογίᾳ αὐτῶν εἰσακουσθήσονται.
μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς· οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ Πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν.
This is another saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that serves as the introduction to the “Our Father” prayer. When the followers of Jesus were praying (Προσευχόμενοι δὲ), they should not babble or use vain empty words (μὴ βατταλογήσητε). Matthew used this Greek word “βατταλογήσητε” that only appears here in all the biblical literature. This was a kind of long babbling stammering rote type of prayer that some gentiles used (ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί). Thus, once again Matthew indicated that these gentles were not part of the Jesus followers. These long-winded gentile non-Jewish people thought that they had to use a lot of words to be heard (δοκοῦσιν γὰρ ὅτι ἐν τῇ πολυλογίᾳ αὐτῶν εἰσακουσθήσονται). The Jesus followers should not be the same or like them (μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς), since their divine Father (οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ Πατὴρ ὑμῶν) knew what they needed before they even asked (ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν).
You who are young!
If you are obliged to.
No more than twice,
And only if asked.
Say much in few words!
Be as one
Be as one
Who can still hold his tongue!
Among the great,
Do not act as their equal!
When another is speaking,
Do not babble!”
Sirach thinks that the young people should speak only if they are asked to do so. They should never speak more than twice and with few words. They should be like someone who knows something, but still holds their tongues. They should not act as equals among the great people. If someone is speaking, they should not babble. This is actually good advice for everyone.
“Do not ridicule a person
Who is embittered in spirit.
There is One who abases.
There is One who exalts.
Do not devise a lie against your brother.
Do not do the same to a friend.
Refuse to utter any lie.
It is a habit that results in no good.
Do not babble in the assembly of the elders.
Do not repeat yourself
When you pray.”
Here are more prescriptions of Sirach. You should be trustworthy. You should not ridicule people who are having a hard time. Leave it up to God, the Holy One, to abase or exalt. Do not make up lies against your brother or your friends. Do not become a habitual liar because that is not good. Do not babble among the assembly of the elders. When you pray, do not repeat yourself.
“Plans are established by taking advice.
Wage war by following wise guidance.
A gossip reveals secrets.
Therefore do not associate with a babbler.
If you curse your father or your mother,
Your lamp will go out in utter darkness.”
Do you not make any plans without getting some advice. If you are going to wage war, make sure that you get some wise guidance. Stay away from gossiping people who babble all the time. Do not curse your mother or father, otherwise your lamp will get dark. You will die.
“Then Zophar the Naamathite answered.
‘Should a multitude of words go unanswered?
Should one full of talk be vindicated?
Should your babble put others to silence?
When you mock,
Shall no one shame you?
‘My conduct is pure.
I am clean in God’s sight.’
But O that God would speak!
If he would open his lips to you!
He would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
Wisdom is many-sided.
Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.’”
Finally we hear from Zophar. He cannot let so many words go unanswered. He seems to chide Job harsher than the other 2 comforters. Talk does not itself vindicate. If Job continued to babble, was everyone to be silent? Someone had to speak out. Job had protested that he was innocent in God’s sight. But has he heard God say that? God could tell you in his secret wisdom the many sides of things. God is merciful and exacts less than the guilty deserve. Notice the link between God and wisdom, which is key to the wisdom or sapiential biblical literature.