The seraphim approach Isaiah (Isa 6:6-6:7)

“Then one of the seraphim

Flew to me.

He was holding

A live burning coal

That he had taken

From the altar

With tongs.

The seraph touched

My mouth with it.

He said.

‘Now that this has touched your lips,

Your guilt has departed.

Your sin blotted out.’”

One of the seraphim flew over to Isaiah, holding a burning coal taken from the altar with tongs. This seraph touched the mouth of Isaiah with the burning coals. Then he said that his guilt and sin had been blotted out and gone away. Isaiah was made clean.

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A good name (Sir 41:11-41:13)

“The human body

Is a fleeting thing.

The bad name of sinners

Will be blotted out.

But a virtuous name

Will never be blotted out.

Have regard for your name!

It will outlive you longer

Than a thousand stores of gold.

The days of a good life

Are numbered.

But a good name

Lasts forever.”

Sirach indicates that life is fleeting, but your name or reputation lasts long after you have died. The bad name of the sinners is blotted out, while the good name of the virtuous will never be blotted out. You should have regard for your name and your reputation because it will outlive you more than your gold. A good name lasts forever, even though you only last a few days here on earth.

Some proverbs (Sir 40:12-40:17)

“All bribery

Will be blotted out.

All injustice

Will be blotted out.

But good faith

Will last forever.

The wealth of the unjust

Will dry up like a river.

The wealth of the unjust

Will crash like a loud clap

Of thunder in a storm.

A generous person

Has cause to rejoice.

Lawbreakers

Will utterly fail.

The children of the ungodly

Put out few branches.

They are unhealthy roots

On sheer rock.

The reeds by any water

Or river bank

Are plucked up

Before any grass.

Kindness is

Like a garden of blessings.

Almsgiving endures forever.”

Sirach utters some proverbs or sayings about injustice and life. Bribery and injustice will be blotted out, but good faith will last forever. The wealth of the unjust will disappear like a dried up river or thunder in a storm, here today, but gone tomorrow. Generous people should rejoice, while the lawbreakers will fail. The children of the ungodly will have few branches because their unhealthy roots are on solid rocks so they will have no yield. They are like reeds near water that is plucked before the grass. Kindness, on the other hand, grows into a garden of blessings. Then too almsgiving endures forever.

The wisdom of the scribes (Sir 39:6-39:11)

If the great Lord is willing,

He will be filled

With the spirit of understanding.

He will pour forth

Words of wisdom.

He will give thanks

To the Lord in prayer.

The Lord will direct his counsel.

The Lord will direct his knowledge.

He will meditate on his mysteries.

He will show the wisdom

Of what he has learned.

He will glory in the law

Of the Lord’s covenant.

Many will praise

His understanding.

It will never be blotted out.

His memory will not disappear.

His name will live

Through all generations.

Nations will speak of his wisdom.

The congregation

Will proclaim his praise.

If he lives long,

He will leave a name

Greater than a thousand.

If he goes to rest,

It is enough for him.”

Sirach continues his praise for the wise scribes like himself. Always it is the will of God that brings wisdom and understanding. These scribes will speak words of wisdom and give prayerful thanks to the Lord. The Lord directs their counsel and knowledge, as they meditate on the divine mysteries. These scribes will show their wisdom by glorifying the law and the covenant. However, many will praise these scribes, since their names will not disappear or be blotted out, but remain for generations to come. Many countries and congregations will praise them also. If they live long, their names will be remembered more than 1,000 others. If they die early, that will be okay also.

The female adulterer (Sir 23:22-23:27)

“So it is with a woman

Who leaves her husband.

She presents him

With an heir

By another man.

First of all,

She has disobeyed

The law of the Most High.

Second,

She has committed an offense

Against her husband.

Third,

Through her fornication

She has committed adultery.

She has brought forth children

By another man.

She herself will be brought

Before the assembly.

Her punishment will extent

To her children.

Her children will not take root.

Her branches will not bear fruit.

She will leave behind

An accursed memory.

Her disgrace will never

Be blotted out.

Those who survive her

Will recognize

That nothing is better

Than the fear of the Lord.

Nothing is sweeter

Than to heed

The commandments of the Lord.”

There seems to be a worse punishment for the female adulterer. She has left her husband and had a child with another man. It is not clear that if she did not have a child, whether she would be punished. She has done 3 things wrong. She disobeyed the law of the Most High God. She has offended her husband. She has committed adultery. Instead of seizing her in the streets, like the male adulterer, she is brought before the assembly for a humiliating action of some sort. Her children will be punished. They apparently will not have heirs. She will leave behind a cursed memory that will never be blotted out. Everyone should recognize that there is nothing better than the fear of the Lord. There is nothing sweeter than to follow the commandments of the Lord.

The curse for David’s enemies (Ps 69:22-69:29)

“Let their own table be a trap for them!

Let their own table be a snare for their allies!

Let their eyes be darkened,

So that they cannot see!

Make their loins tremble continually!

Pour out your indignation upon them!

Let our burning anger overtake them!

May their camp be desolation!

Let no one live in their tents!

They persecute those

Whom you have struck down.

They persecute those

Whom you have wounded.

They attack still more.

Add guilt to their guilt!

May they have no acquittal from you!

Let them be blotted out of the book of the living!

Let them not be enrolled among the righteous!

But I am lowly.

I am in pain.

Let your salvation!

O God!

Protect me high!”

These are a series of curses or wishes against the enemies of David. His enemies’ tables should be a trap or snare to them and their friends. He wanted them to lose their sight and to tremble all the time. God’s indignation and anger should be upon them. Their camp should be desolate so that they could not live in their tents. They had persecuted and attacked those who had been wounded. Their guilt pilled on guilt. They should not be acquitted. They should be blotted out of the book of the living. They should not be listed among the righteous. They should die. Then there is the cry of David to protect him and bring him salvation.

David wants purification (Ps 51:6-51:9)

“You desire truth in the inward being.

Therefore teach me wisdom

In my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop!

Then I shall be clean.

Wash me!

Then I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness!

Let the bones that you have crushed rejoice!

Hide your face from my sins!

Blot out all my iniquities!”

David wanted to be purified. He wanted wisdom in his heart. He wanted to be purged or purified with some ritual that involved a hyssop, a ceremonial plant that was used to sprinkle water in a cleansing ritual. The hyssop was used in cleansing lepers in Leviticus, chapter 14. This cleansing hyssop was more explicit in Numbers, chapter 19, as the main tool used in sprinkling water to ritually clean things. He wanted to be clean, whiter than snow. There was a mention of some crushed bones. He wanted to be joyful, not with broken bones. He wanted his sins hidden and blotted out. He wanted a clean slate.