The foolish giver (Sir 20:13-20:17)

“The wise make themselves beloved

By only a few words.

But the courtesies of fools are wasted.

A fool’s gift will profit nothing.

So it is with the envious

Who give under compulsion.

He looks for recompense sevenfold.

He has many eyes instead of one.

He gives little.

He upbraids much.

He opens his mouth

Like a town crier.

Today he lends.

Tomorrow he asks it back.

Such a one is a hateful man.

Such a one is hateful to God.

Such a one is hateful to humans.

The fool says.

‘I have no friends.

I get no thanks for my good deeds.

Those who eat my bread

Are evil-tongued.’

How many will ridicule him!

How often will they ridicule him!”

Wise people can make themselves loved with a few words. However, fools have a difficult time. Courtesies and gifts do not bring them any gain. The same is true of the envious people that are forced to give a gift. They are looking for a reward. These fools are looking to be compensated. They are looking all over with their many eyes. They give little. They are always criticizing. They are like town criers, shouting all the time. One day they lend things. Then the next day, they want them back again. These fools are hateful people to God and their fellow humans. These foolish people think that they have no friends. They get no thanks for their good deeds. They think that the people who eat with them are evil people. Thus they are often ridiculed by many people.

Gifts (Sir 18:15-18:18)

“My child!

Do not mix reproach

With your good deeds!

Do not spoil your gift

By harsh words!

Does not the dew give relief

From the scorching heat?

So a word is

Better than a gift.

Indeed,

Does not a word

Surpass a good gift?

Both are to be found

In a gracious man.

A fool is ungracious.

A fool is abusive.

The gift of a grudging giver

Makes the eyes dim.”

Be careful when you are giving gifts that your words and attitude not betray your good deed. Do not criticize when you are doing good deeds. Don’t spoil your gifts with unkind words. Just like the morning dew gives relief from the later noon day heat, so too a nice word might be better than a good gift, and even surpass it. The gracious man offers both good words and good gifts. On the other hand, the fool is both ungracious and insulting. People do not look favorably on a grudging giver.

Confidence in the Lord (Sir 11:14-11:19)

“Good things and bad,

Life and death,

Poverty and wealth,

All come from the Lord.

The Lord’s gift remains

With the devout.

His favor brings lasting success.

One becomes rich

Through diligence.

One becomes rich

Through self-denial.

The reward allotted to him is this.

When he says.

‘I have found rest.

Now I shall feast on my goods!’

He does not know

How long it will be

Until he leaves them to others,

Until he dies.”

Everything comes from the Lord, both good and bad, life and death, as well as poverty and wealth. The Lord graces or gifts those who are devout. The Lord’s favor brings lasting success. You can become rich through diligence and self-denial. You might even say that you want to enjoy your wealth. However, you have no idea how long you will be able to do this because death is always looming. Someone else will probably enjoy these things that you worked so hard to get.

The esteemed wisdom (Wis 7:7-7:14)

“Therefore I prayed.

Understanding was given to me.

I called on God.

The spirit of wisdom came to me.

I preferred her to scepters and thrones.

I accounted wealth as nothing

In comparison with her.

Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem.

Because all gold is

But a little sand in her sight.

Silver will be accounted

As clay before her.

I loved her more than health.

I loved her more than beauty.

I chose to have her rather than light.

Her radiance never ceases.

All good things came to me

Along with her.

In her hands

I had uncounted wealth.

I rejoiced in them all.

Because wisdom leads them.

But I did not know

That she was their mother.

I learned without guile.

I impart without grudging.

I do not hide her wealth.

It is an unfailing treasure for mortals.

Those who get it

Obtain friendship with God.

They are commended for the gifts

That come from instruction.”

One again, assuming the first person singular of King Solomon, this author says that he prayed to God for wisdom. Understanding was given to him. The spirit of wisdom came to him (μοι πνεῦμα σοφίας). Scepters, thrones, and wealth were nothing in comparison to wisdom. Priceless gems, gold (χρυσὸς), and silver were like sand and clay compared to wisdom. He loved wisdom more than health, beauty, or light (φωτὸς) because the radiance of wisdom never ceases. Not only did he get wisdom, he also got any number of other gifts. He had wealth because wisdom was the mother or fount of all his wealth. He did not hide this treasure of wisdom. He gave this to other mortals so that they might be friends of God (οἱ χρησάμενοι πρὸς Θεὸν) with further learning and instruction (παιδείας).

Make and perform vows to Yahweh (Ps 76:10-76:12)

“Human wrath serves only to praise you.

You bind the last bit of your wrath around you.

Make vows to Yahweh!

Your God!

Perform them!

Let all who are around him

Bring gifts

To the one who is awesome.

He cuts off the spirit of princes.

He inspires fear in the kings of the earth.”

This psalm ends emphasizing the importance of individual vows to Yahweh. They were to bring gifts and sacrifices to Yahweh. Yahweh was awesome, baby, awesome. He had the princes and the kings of the earth fearful of him.

The powerful successful king (Ps 72:8-72:11)

“May he have dominion

From sea to sea!

May he have dominion

From the river to the ends of the earth!

May his foes

Bow down before him!

May his enemies

Lick the dust!

May the kings of Tarshish

Render him tribute!

May the kings of the isles

Render him tribute!

May the kings of Sheba and Seba

Bring gifts!

May all kings

Fall down before him!

All nations

Give him service!”

Now we have the practical empire of the king. He will be king from sea to shining sea even to the ends of the earth. His foes will bow down before him, while his enemies will lick dust. What a nice thought! The kings of Tarshish and various islands will render him tribute. The kings of Sheba and Seba will also bring gifts and tribute. The river mentioned here is the Euphrates River, since that was a border area easily recognized. Tarshish maybe Spain and the other Mediterranean islands. Sheba and Seba are probably Arabian countries. There is no mention of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, and other common enemies, suggesting maybe a post-exilic writing. King Solomon had been an idealist wise king that everyone respected. Thus all the kings and all the nations would bring gifts and give service to him.

Yahweh came from Sinai (Ps 68:17-68:19)

“With mighty chariots,

Twice ten thousand,

Thousands upon thousands,

Yahweh came from Sinai

Into the holy place.

You ascended the high mountain.

You lead captives in your train.

You received gifts from people,

Even from those who rebel against

Yahweh God’s abiding there.

Blessed be Yahweh!

He daily bears us up!

God is our salvation!”

Selah

Yahweh had 20,000 chariots lead him from Mount Sinai to the new Mount Zion in Jerusalem. This seems a little exaggerated. He came into the new holy place leaving many captives along the way. Everyone gave him gifts, even those opposed to his stay at Mount Zion. Once again, this section ended with the musical interlude pause, the Selah. This came after the refrain that Yahweh was blessed, that God was their salvation.

The sacredness of naphtha (2 Macc 1:30-1:36)

“Then the priests sang the hymns.

After the materials of the sacrifice had been consumed,

Nehemiah ordered that the liquid that was left

Should be poured upon large stones.

When this was done,

A flame blazed up.

But when the light from the altar shone back,

It went out.

When this matter became known,

It was reported to the king of the Persians.

The place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire,

The liquid had appeared

With which Nehemiah and his associates

Had burned the materials of the sacrifice.

The king investigated the matter.

He enclosed the place.

He made it sacred.

With those persons whom the king favored

He exchanged many excellent gifts.

Nehemiah and his associates called this nephthar.

This means purification.

However, by most people it is called naphtha.”

After the priests had sung their hymns and the sacrifice had been consumed, Nehemiah ordered that the left over liquid be poured on large stones. A blaze started when the sun was shining brightly. However, when the sun was not out, there was no flame. This was reported to the king of Persia. Nehemiah was a trusted cupbearer for King Artaxerxes who investigated this material. He then called the place where it was found to be sacred. In fact, he gave this as gifts. Thus naphtha, nephthar, or oil gained its importance.

Ptolemy takes charge (1 Macc 16:18-16:22)

“Then Ptolemy wrote a report about these things that he sent to King Antiochus. He wanted the king to send him troops in order to turn over to him the cities and the country. He sent other men to Gazara to do away with John. He sent letters to the captains asking them to come to him so that he might give them silver, gold, and gifts. He sent other troops to take possession of Jerusalem and the temple hill. But someone ran ahead and reported to John at Gazara that his father and brothers had perished. He told him.

‘He has sent men to kill you also.’

When John heard this, he was greatly shocked. He seized the men who came to destroy him. Then he killed them. He had found out that they were seeking to destroy him.”

Ptolemy wrote a report to King Antiochus VII telling him what had happened. He wanted some help from the king. Ptolemy then sent men to kill his brother-in-law John. He told the captains that he had gold, silver, and gifts for them. He sent other troops to take over Jerusalem. However, the plot to kill John failed as someone told him what was happening. Instead, he killed the men coming to get him. The story ends here without any resolution. However, it seems that John won out, but it is not clear what happened to Ptolemy.

Jonathan and Trypho meet (1 Macc 12:41-12:45)

“Jonathan went out to meet Trypho with forty thousand picked warriors. He came to Beth-shan. When Trypho saw that he had come with a large army, he was afraid to raise his hand against him. So he received him with honor and commended him to all his friends. He gave him gifts. He commanded his friends and his troops to obey him as they would himself. Then he said to Jonathan.

‘Why have you put all these people

To such trouble

When we are not at war?

Dismiss them now to their homes.

Choose for yourself a few men to stay with you.

Come with me to Ptolemais.

I will hand it over to you

As well as the other strongholds

And the remaining troops

And all the officials.

I will turn around and go home.

That is why I am here.’”

Jonathan now had a large force of 40,000 warriors. When he met Trypho at Beth-shan, Trypho was actually afraid. He did not want to fight such a large army. Instead, he said that he wanted to honor Jonathan as he gave him gifts. He told his whole army to listen and obey whatever Jonathan said. He wanted Jonathan to take a few troops to Ptolemais, where he would give him that city. He told Jonathan to dismiss most of his troops since they were not needed. They were not at war. He was going to hand everything over to Jonathan so that he could go home. He said that was the reason that he had come to this place. It is hard to tell whether Jonathan believed him or not, but we shall see.