Numerical blessings (Sir 25:7-25:12)

“I can think of nine

Whom I should call blessed.

My tongue proclaims a tenth.

A blessed man can rejoice

In his children.

A blessed man lives

To see the downfall of his foes.

Happy the man

Who lives With a sensible wife.

Happy is the one

Who does not plow

With an ox and donkey together.

Happy is the one

Who does not sin with his tongue.

Happy is the one

Who has not served an inferior.

Happy is the one

Who finds a friend.

Happy is the one

Who speaks to attentive listeners.

How great is the one

Who finds wisdom!

But none is superior to the one

Who fears the Lord.

Fear of the Lord

Surpasses everything.

To whom can we compare

To the one who has it?

The fear of the Lord

Is the beginning of love

For him.

Faith is the beginning

Of clinging to him.”

Once again, Sirach has a numerical proverb. There are 9 kinds of blessed people and a 10th that is even better. He would consider you a blessed happy person if you rejoiced in your children (1). You would be blessed happy if you see your foes fail (2). You are blessed happy, if you live with a sensible wife (3). You are blessed happy, if you plow your field without mixing up your ox and your donkey (4). You should be blessed happy, if you never sin with your tongue (5). You should be blessed happy, if you never have to serve an inferior (6). You are blessed happy, if you have found a friend (7) and people willing to listen to you (8). However, you the great ones are blessed happy when you find wisdom (9). You are the people who fear the Lord (10), since that surpasses everything. Nothing can compare to you, the ones who have the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of love for the Lord. It is the beginning of faith in the Lord.

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Reckless drunkards (Sir 19:1-19:3)

“A worker who is a drunkard

Will not become rich.

One who despises small things

Will fail little by little.

Wine leads intelligent men astray.

Women lead intelligent men astray.

The man who consorts

With prostitutes is reckless.

Decay will take possession of him

Worms will inherit him.

The reckless person

Will be snatched away.”

Sirach warns us that a drunkard will not become rich. If you despise small things, you will fail little by little. Both wine and women have led intelligent men astray. You are reckless, if you hang around with prostitutes. Always blame your downfall on someone or something other than yourself. Your body will decay and worms will take over. The reckless person will have his life snatched away.

The will of God (Wis 9:13-9:18)

“Who can learn the counsel of God?

Who can discern what the Lord wills?

The reasoning of mortals is worthless.

Our designs are likely to fail.

A perishable body weighs down the soul.

This earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.

We can hardly guess at what is on earth.

What is at hand

We find with labor.

But who has traced out

What is in the heavens?

Who has learned your counsel,

Unless you have given wisdom?

You sent your Holy Spirit from on high.

Thus the paths of those on earth

Were set right.

People were taught

What pleases you.

They were saved by wisdom.”

What is the will of the Lord (θέλει ὁ Κύριος)? How can you have counsel with God (βουλὴν Θεοῦ)? What man is able to know (ἄνθρωπος γνώσετα) these things because human reasoning is worthless? By our own designs we are likely to fail. Then we have the Platonic thought about how our perishable body (σῶμα) weighs down our souls (ψυχήν) as our earthly tent holds back our minds. We can only guess what is going on even when we work hard here on earth (γῆς). We have no idea what is going on in heaven (οὐρανοῖς). The only way that we know anything is with the counsel and the wisdom (σοφίαν) that your Holy Spirit (τὸ ἅγιόν σου πνεῦμα) gives to us. Here is a clear rare explicit mention of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament books. This is the only way that we can stay on the right path. We are saved by wisdom (τῇ σοφίᾳ).

The blessed ones (Wis 3:13-3:15)

“Blessed is the barren woman

Who is undefiled.

She has not entered into a sinful union.

She will have fruit

When God examines souls.

Blessed also is the eunuch

Whose hands have done no lawless deed.

He has not devised wicked things against the Lord.

Special favor will be shown him

For his faithfulness.

There will be a place of great delight

In the temple of the Lord.

The fruit of good labors is renowned.

The root of understanding does not fail.”

This author then praises or calls the barren woman and the eunuch blessed or blissful (μακαρία). Both of these groups of people were considered outcasts of society because of their sterility. These barren women are those who were not defiled. They had not entered into a sinful union. They will bear fruit when their souls would be examined (ἐπισκοπῇ ψυχῶν). The eunuchs should have not done any lawless actions. They will not have devised anything wicked against the Lord (κατὰ τοῦ Κυρίου πονηρά). They will receive special favors because they were faithful. They will have a special place in the Temple of the Lord (ἐν ναῷ Κυρίου θυμηρέστερος). This is a reference to some kind of eternal reward. The fruits of a good life and understanding will not fail.

The impending death of old age (Eccl 12:3-12:7)

“In the day

When the guards of the house tremble,

The strong men are bent.

The women who grind cease working

Because they are few.

Those who look through the windows see dimly.

The doors on the street are shut.

The sound of the grinding is low.

One rises up at the sound of a bird.

All the daughters of song are brought low.

When one is afraid of heights,

The terrors are in the road.

The almond tree blossoms.

The grasshopper drags itself along.

Desire fails.

Because all must go to their eternal home.

The mourners will go about the streets.

The silver cord is snapped.

The golden bowl is broken.

The pitcher is broken at the fountain.

The wheel is broken at the cistern.

The dust returns to the earth as it was.

The spirit returns to God who gave it.”

This is an ode to old age. The dying old man, with his many servants and guards, comes to an end. The guards tremble. The strong men bend over. The women grinders stop their dancing. They can only see dimly out the window. Everyone has shut their doors. The grinders have ceased. Morning comes early with the first sound of a bird. There are no more singing young girls. The old man is afraid of heights. He dreads going out on the road because of the fear of attack. The old people tend to walk awkwardly like a grasshopper. Their desires fail maybe due to incompetence. The trees still blossom, but the mourners are out on the streets. The signs of death, the snapped silver cord, the broken gold bowl, and the broken pitcher at the fountain all take place. The wheel was broken at the cistern. They return to dust, but their spirit or breath returns to God. This is a depressing description of old age, just before death, along with the symbolic actions that go with death.

Be careful (Prov 22:5-22:8)

“Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse.

The cautious will keep far from them.

Train children in the right way.

Then when they are old,

They will not stray.

The rich rule over the poor.

The borrower is the slave of the lender.

Whoever sows injustice

Will reap calamity,

The rod of anger will fail.”

The way of the perverse is full of thorns and snares, so keep away from them. If you train children correctly, they will not stray when they are old. The rich will rule over the poor. The borrower becomes the slave of the lender. If you sow injustice, you will harvest calamity. Beatings in anger will fail.

Your servant (Ps 119:121-119:128)

Ain

“I have done what is just.

I have done what is right.

Do not leave me to my oppressors.

Guarantee your servant’s well being.

Do not let the godless oppress me.

My eyes fail from watching

For your salvation.

My eyes fail from watching

For the fulfillment of your righteous promise.

Deal with your servant

According to your steadfast love.

Teach me your statutes.

I am your servant.

Give me understanding.

Thus I may know your decrees.

It is time for Yahweh to act.

Your law has been broken.

Truly I love your commandments

More than gold,

More than fine gold.

Truly I direct my steps by all your precepts.

I hate every false way.”

The psalmist believes that he is the servant of God. He has always done what is just and right. As usual, he did not want to be left to his oppressors. He wanted to be protected against the godless men. His eyes were beginning to fail because he has been waiting for salvation and righteous promises. Of course, he wanted to feel the steadfast love of Yahweh. He wanted to learn and understand about the decrees of Yahweh. He wanted Yahweh to act now because his laws were broken. The psalmist loved the commandments of Yahweh more than even fine gold. He wanted all his steps to follow the precepts of Yahweh. He hated false ways. So ends this section on the sixteenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Ain.

I was stupid (Ps 73:21-73:26)

“When my soul was embittered,

When I was pricked in heart,

I was stupid.

I was ignorant.

I was like a brute beast toward you.

Nevertheless I am continually with you.

You hold my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel.

Afterward you will receive me with honor.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

There is nothing on earth

That I desire other than you.

My flesh may fail.

My heart may fail.

But God is the strength of my heart.

God is my portion forever.”

This psalmist Asaph says that he was stupid and ignorant when he had these strange thoughts about the prosperous wicked people. He was acting like a brutal beast toward God. However, God led him by the hand and gave him counsel. God then honored him. There was no one else in heaven besides God who could help him. There was nothing on this earth that he desired. His heart and his flesh might fail, but God remained his strength and portion forever.

Waiting for Yahweh (Ps 38:15-38:16)

“But it is for you!

Yahweh!

That I wait!

It is you!

Yahweh!

My God!

You will answer!

I pray!

‘Only do not let them rejoice over me!

Those who boast against me

When my foot slips!’”

David is waiting for Yahweh. Only he could answer him. Yahweh was his God. He just prayed that they would not rejoice over him in case his foot slipped. They were just waiting for him to fail. David had hope and trust in waiting for Yahweh.