The treatment of slaves (Sir 33:24-33:29)

“Fodder is for a donkey.

A stick is for a donkey.

A burden is for a donkey.

Bread is for a slave.

Discipline is for a slave.

Work is for a slave.

Set your slave to work.

You will find rest.

If you leave his hands idle,

He will seek liberty.

A yoke will bow his neck.

A thong will bow his neck.

A wicked servant should have

Rack and tortures.

Put him to work.

Thus he may not be idle.

Idleness teaches much evil.

Set him to work,

As is fitting for him.

If he does not obey,

Make his fetters heavy.

Do not be overbearing

Toward anybody.

Do nothing unjust.”

Sirach accepts slavery as a fact of life, not to be disputed. This was a common biblical theme, so that the slave owners who cited the Bible could not be faulted. Slaves were slaves, so what? There was no sense of the idea of an equal fellow human being. In fact, it was clear that they should work hard as there was a comparison of a slave to a donkey. Just as the donkey was fed, whipped, and burdened, so too the slave should be fed with bread, disciplined, and worked hard. If your slave worked hard, you could get some restful idleness time for yourself. You should put a yoke and thong around your slave’s neck. If he was bad, you could beat him up. The slave should never be idle because that would lead to evil and his possible escape. If the slave did not obey, he should be punished. However, there was a limit to this brutality. You should not be overbearing or unjust. Of course, it was your decision to evaluate the situation.

The ideal wife (Sir 26:13-26:18)

“A wife’s charm

Delights her husband.

Her skill puts flesh

On his bones.

A silent wife is a gift

From the Lord.

There is nothing so precious

As her self-discipline.

A modest wife

Adds charm to charm.

No scales can weigh

The value of her chastity.

Like the sun rising

In the heights of the Lord,

So is the beauty

Of a good wife,

In her well-ordered home.

Like the shining lamp

On the holy lamp stand,

So is a beautiful face

On a stately figure.

Like golden pillars

On sliver bases,

So are shapely legs

With steadfast feet.”

Sirach describes the ideal wife. Her charms delight her husband. Her skills keep him in good health. If she is silent, she is a gift from the Lord. Her self-discipline is precious. Her modesty adds further charms. There is no way to measure her chastity. Her beauty is like a sunrise on the mountains. She keeps a well ordered house. She has a beautiful face on a stately figure, like the holy lamp stand in the Temple. Her legs and feet are like golden pillars on silver bases. Thus we have the ideal wife, charming, disciplined, orderly, and beautiful. There is no indication where you might find such a women.

Careful speech (Sir 23:12-23:15)

“There is a manner of speaking

Comparable to death.

May it never be found

In the inheritance of Jacob.

Such conduct will be far

From the godly.

They will not wallow in sins.

Do not accustom your mouth

To coarse foul language.

This involves sinful speech.

Remember your father!

Remember your mother!

Remember them

When you sit among the great ones!

Otherwise you might forget yourself

In their presence.

You might behave

Like a fool

Through bad habit.

Then you will wish

That you had never been born.

You will curse the day of your birth.

Whoever is accustomed

To use abusive language

Will never become disciplined

As long as they live.”

Sirach warns against the manner of speaking that brings death. This could be blasphemy or some profane sinful language that should never appear among the descendants of Jacob. Notice that is Jacob and not Israel. You should watch your language and not wallow in sin, since this is ungodly. Do not get accustomed to using coarse foul vulgar language. You should remember your parents whenever you are with great people. Otherwise, you might behave like a fool with bad habits. If you do, you will wish that you were never born. You will curse the day of your birth. If you get accustomed to using abusive language, you will never be disciplined in your life, no matter how long you live.

Prayer for life (Sir 23:1-23:3)

“O Lord!

Father!

Ruler of my life!

Do not abandon me

To their designs!

Do not let me fall

Because of them!

Who will set whips

Over my thoughts?

Who will set

The discipline of wisdom

Over my mind?

Do not spare me

In my errors!

Do not overlook my sins!

Otherwise my mistakes

May be multiplied.

My sins may abound.

I may fall

Before my adversaries.

My enemy may rejoice

Over me.

From them,

The hope of your mercy

Is remote.”

Sirach prays to the Lord, the Father, the ruler of his life. He did not want to fall into the hands of his enemies. He wanted to be disciplined with wisdom. He did not want to be spared from his errors and sins. If these sins and errors were not corrected now, they would multiply. His sins would increase exponentially. He would fall before his adversaries. Then his enemies would rejoice over him. He knew that he had no chance of mercy from them, unlike the mercy of God that protected his life.

Degenerate children (Sir 22:3-22:8)

“It is a disgrace

To be the father

Of an undisciplined son.

The birth of a daughter

Is a loss.

A sensible daughter

Obtains a husband of her own.

But the daughter

Who acts shamefully

Is a grief to her father.

An impudent daughter

Disgraces her father.

She disgraces her husband.

She is despised by both.

Like music in time of mourning

Is an ill-timed conversation.

But thrashing is wisdom at all times.

Discipline is wisdom at all times.

Children who are brought up

In a good life,

Conceal the lowly birth of their parents.

Children who are disdainfully haughty

Stain the nobility of their kindred.

Children who are boorish

Stain the nobility of their kindred.”

What happens if you have bad kids, degenerate children? Sirach warns that an undisciplined son is a disgrace to his father. Notice that he says that the birth of a daughter is considered to be a loss. The obvious importance of the male son runs throughout all of these biblical writings. A sensible daughter is able to get her own husband. The shameful daughter, however, disgraces both her father and her husband. There is a proper time for everything, but thrashing and disciplining children is wise at all times. Once again, Sirach insists that children should be disciplined all the time. If your children are brought up well, this will conceal the lowly background of you, his or her parents. However, the opposite is also true. Children who are disrespectful, haughty, and boorish stain whatever noble birth the parents and their family may have.

The divine judge (Sir 17:15-17:24)

“Their ways are always known to him.

They will not be hid from his eyes.

Their ways from youth tend towards evil.

They are unable

To make for themselves hearts of flesh

In place of their stony hearts.

In the division of nations of the whole earth

He appointed a ruler for every nation.

But Israel is the Lord’s own portion.

Being his firstborn,

He brings them up with discipline.

He allots to them

The light of his love.

He does not neglect them.

All their works are as clear

As the sun before him.

His eyes are continually upon their ways.

Their iniquities are not hidden from him.

All their sins are before the Lord.

The Lord is gracious.

He knows how they were formed.

He has not left them.

He has not abandoned them.

But he has spared them.

One’s almsgiving is

Like a signet ring with the Lord.

He will keep a person’s kindness

Like the apple of his eye.

Afterward he will rise up.

He will repay them.

He will bring their recompense on their heads.

Yet to those who repent,

He grants a return.

He encourages those who are losing hope.”

The Lord is a diving judge. He knows human ways. You cannot hide from him. He appointed rulers for the various countries, but he is the ruler of Israel. Since the time of the Exile in the 6th century BCE, there was no king of Israel. As Israel is the first born, the Lord has disciplined and loved Israel. He would not neglect them as he watches them continually. Their works are as clear as the sun. They cannot hide their sins, but he has not abandoned them. Almsgiving is like the Lord’s ring. Kindness is the apple of his eye. However, he will repay them for their sins. Nevertheless, those who repent can return. In fact, he tries to encourage those who are losing hope.

Apprenticeship of wisdom (Sir 6:32-6:37)

“If you are willing,

My child,

You can be disciplined.

If you apply yourself.

You will become clever.

If you love to listen,

You will pay attention,

You will become wise.

Stand in the assembly of the elders.

Who is wise?

Attach yourself to such a one.

Be ready to listen to every godly discourse.

Let no wise proverbs escape you.

If you see an intelligent person,

Rise early.

Visit him.

Let your foot wear out his doorstep.

Reflect on the statutes of the Lord.

Meditate at all times on his commandments.

It is he who will give insight to your mind.

Your desire for wisdom will be granted.”

Sirach now gives clear directions on how to be wise. You must go through an apprenticeship, just like a Trump apprentice. However, here it is the wisdom apprentice. If you are willing and disciplined, you can become clever and wise. You have to apply yourself and listen attentively. You should stand in the assembly of the elders. You should attach yourself to an intelligent person who has a godly discourse and wise proverbs. You should rise early. Go wear out his doorstep with your many visits to this wise man. If you reflect on the statutes of the Lord and meditate on his commandments, you will gain insight. Wisdom will be granted to you after your time of trial.