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.

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.

Praise for the perfect wife (Prov 31:26-31:29)

Phe

“She opens her mouth with wisdom.

The teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Cade

She looks well to the ways of her household.

She does not eat the bread of idleness.

Qoph

Her children rise up.

They call her happy.

Her husband also calls her happy,

He praises her.

Resh

‘Many women have done excellently.

But you surpass them all.’”

The perfect good wife speaks wisdom and kindness. She spends her time making the household better, and not in idleness. Her children call her happy and blessed, as does her husband. He has praise for her. He proclaims that she surpasses all the excellent women that are out there.

Clothing for the family (Prov 31:20-31:23)

Kaph

“She opens her hand to the poor.

She reaches out her hands to the needy.

Lamed

She is not afraid for her household,

When it snows.

All her household are clothed in crimson.

Mem

She makes herself coverings.

Her clothing is fine linen.

Her clothing is purple.

Nun

Her husband is known in the city gates.

He takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

This perfect wife opens up and reaches out to the poor and the needy. She is not afraid of snow, since her household has crimson warm garments. She makes her own clothes, fine linen, and purple. Thus her husband can sit at the city gates with the elders of the land, while she takes care of everything in the household.

The good wife (Prov 12:4-12:4)

“A good wife is the crown of her husband.

But she who brings shame is

Like rottenness in his bones.”

The woman is defined in her relationship to her husband. Being a good wife meant that you were the crown of your husband. Generally women were compared to their husbands for value. The opposite is also true. If she brought shame to herself, it also brought shame to her husband, since he would endure the rottenness of the bad deed in his bones.

The seduction of the prostitute (Prov 7:10-7:20)

“Then a woman comes toward him.

She is decked out like a prostitute.

She has a wily heart.

She is loud.

She is wayward.

Her feet do not stay at home.

She is now in the street.

She is now in the market squares.

At every corner she lies in wait.

She seizes him.

She kisses him.

With an impudent face

She says to him.

‘I had to offer sacrifices.

Today I have paid my vows.

So now I have come out to meet you.

I seek you eagerly.

I have found you.

I have decked my couch with coverings.

I have colored spreads of Egyptian linen.

I have perfumed my bed with myrrh.

I have perfumed my bed with aloes.

I have perfumed my bed with cinnamon.

Come!

Let us take our fill of love until morning!

Let us delight ourselves with love!

My husband is not at home.

He has gone on a long journey.

He took a bag of money with him.

He will not come home until full moon.”

This is a story of seduction. The young woman was dressed like a prostitute, whatever that means. She was loud and rarely at home, since she was out in the town square as well as in the market places. She then seized this simpleton and started to kiss him. No soft sell here. She said that she had spent her money at the Temple and was looking for him. They may in fact have been friends. Then she explained why he should come with her. She had a decked out couch and a bed with Egyptian linens full of myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon, so that it smelt nice. She wanted to spend the whole night with him in love making until the morning. She explained that her husband was on a long business trip. He would be gone for a while until the end of the month or the full moon. The woman adulteress was the clear initiator, while the male was a young simpleton.

The wife of your youth (Prov 5:18-5:23)

“Rejoice in the wife of your youth!

She is a lovely deer.

She is a graceful doe.

May her breasts satisfy you at all times!

May you be intoxicated always by her love!

Why should you be intoxicated with another woman?

My son!

Why do you embrace the bosom of an adulterous woman?

Human ways are under the eyes of Yahweh.

He examines all their paths.

The iniquities of the wicked ensnare them.

They are caught in the toils of their sin.

They die for lack of discipline.

Because of their great folly they are lost.”

Now this chapter ends with what you should be doing. You should rejoice with the wife of your youth, as there may have been other wives. However, the ideal is the young wife for life. There is a description of her. She is like a lovely deer or a graceful doe. Her breasts satisfy her husband at all times. Her love is intoxicating. So then he asks why you would seek another intoxicating woman if you have one at home. Then the reprimands come. He reminds his sons that God sees everything. He examines all paths. The wicked usually ensnare themselves as they are caught in the toils of sin. They die because of a lack of discipline. There folly leads to a great loss.

Judith dresses up to go to General Holofernes (Jdt 10:1-10:5)

“When Judith had stopped crying out to the God of Israel, as she had ended all these words, she rose from where she lay prostrate. She called her maid. She went down into the house where she lived on the Sabbath and on her festal days. She removed the sackcloth that she had been wearing. She took off her widow’s garments. She bathed her body with water. She anointed herself with precious ointment. She combed her hair and put on a tiara. She dressed herself in the festive attire that she used to wear while her husband Manasseh was living. She put sandals on her feet. She put on her anklets, bracelets, rings, earrings and all her other jewelry. Thus she made herself very beautiful, to entice the eyes of all the men who might see her. She gave her maid a skin of wine and a flask of oil. She filled a bag with roasted grain, dried fruit cakes, and fine bread. Then she wrapped up all her dishes. She then gave them to her maid to carry.”

This is a glimpse into what a beautiful woman of the 3rd to 1st century BCE did to look beautiful as the details are very specific. Judith got up from her prayer tent and went into her house. She took off her sackcloth and widow garments. It is interesting to note that there was special clothing just for widows, thus the custom of women in mourning wearing black. In Genesis, chapter 38, there is the story of Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar who took off her widow garments and enticed her father-in-law as a prostitute to have sex with her that produced the lineage for Judah through the twin boys of Perez and Zerah. Judith bathed and anointed her body. It is interesting to note that despite the shortage of water, she was able to take a water bath. She combed her hair and put on a tiara, as if a princess or queen. She put on festive attire, with anklets, bracelets, rings, earrings, and other fine jewelry. She wanted to look enticing. Then she had her maid servant carry her food and dishes.