Rebuke against rebellion (Isa 1:2-1:3)

“Hear!

O heavens!

Listen!

O earth!

Yahweh has spoken.

‘I reared children.

I brought them up.

But they have rebelled

Against me.

The ox knows its owner.

The donkey knows its master’s crib.

But Israel does not know.

My people do not understand.’”

Isaiah begins with an oracle that comes from Yahweh. He asks heaven and earth to listen to him. Yahweh says that he reared and brought up his children. However, these children have rebelled against him. As an ox knows its owner and a donkey knows where his home is, the people of Israel are just the opposite. They do not know or understand anything. This is the tone to many of the oracles of Yahweh via Isaiah. It is not clear whether this oracle is against just the northern Israelites or also includes the people of Judah. Sometimes the term “Israel” is used for both and sometimes just for the northern Israelites.

The difficulties of King Solomon (Sir 47:19-47:22)

“You brought in women

To lie at your side.

Through your body,

You were brought

Into subjection.

You stained your honor.

You defiled your family line.

You brought wrath

Upon your children.

They were grieved

At your folly.

Because the sovereignty

Was divided.

A rebel kingdom

Arose out of Ephraim.

But the Lord

Will never give up his mercy.

He will not cause

Any of his works to perish.

He will never blot out

The descendants of his chosen one.

He will not destroy

The family line

Of him who loved him.

So he gave a remnant to Jacob.

To David

He gave a root of his stock.”

Unlike the other famous holy men, Sirach points out some problems with King Solomon. He had a woman problem. As usual, Sirach blames them rather than Solomon. However, he did point out that Solomon brought in women to lie with him that reduced his strength and power. Solomon thus stained the family line with this dishonor. Thus his children suffered with the split in the Israelite kingdom. At the death of King Solomon, the rebels in Ephraim took over the northern part of the kingdom, so that only Judah was left. However, the Lord was merciful and never gave up, so that the family line was not destroyed. They just had less power. The remnant remained of Jacob and David and his family. The roots were still there, even if the tree was smaller.

The invitation to praise God (Sir 39:12-39:15)

“I have more on my mind

To express.

I am full

Like the full moon.

Listen to me!

My faithful children!

Blossom like a rose!

May it grow

By a stream of water!

Send out fragrance

Like incense!

Put forth blossoms

Like a lily!

Scatter the fragrance!

Sing a hymn of praise!

Bless the Lord

For all his works!

Ascribe majesty to his name!

Give thanks to him

With praise!

Give thanks

With songs on your lips!

Give thanks

With harps!

This is what

You shall say in thanksgiving.”

Sirach assumes the first person singular in talking to his children. He has a lot more to tell them because his mind is like a full moon. He wanted his children to be like rose blossoms and grow by a water stream. He wanted the scent of the lily blossoms to be like incense that would be scattered around. He wanted them to sing a hymn of praise to the majestic Lord. The Lord should be blessed for all his works. Praise and thanksgiving should be given to the Lord with songs and harps. He was about to tell them what they should say in their thanksgiving prayer.

Gain knowledge (Sir 16:24-16:25)

“Listen to me!

My child!

Acquire knowledge!

Pay close attention to my words!

I will impart disciple precisely.

I will declare knowledge accurately.”

Sirach wants you to pay close attention to what he is saying. He wants to depart precise discipline and accurate knowledge. Thus you, his children, will acquire knowledge, but you must listen to him.

The marvelous Red Sea experience (Wis 19:6-19:9)

“The whole creation

In its nature

Was fashioned anew.

It complies with your commands.

Thus your children might be kept unharmed.

The cloud was seen overshadowing the camp.

Dry land emerged

Where water had stood before.

There was an unhindered way

Out of the Red Sea.

There was a grassy plain

Out of the raging waves.

Those protected by your hand

They passed through as one nation.

After gazing on marvelous wonders.

They ranged like horses.

They leaped like lambs.

They praised you.

O Lord!

You delivered them.”

Creation itself helped the righteous Israelites as they complied with the commands of God to help his children (σοὶ παῖδες). There was a cloud (παρεμβολὴν) over the camp. Dry land emerged from the Red Sea (ἐρυθρᾶς θαλάσσης) as in Exodus, chapter 13. Here there is an explicit mention of the Red Sea as they passed through a grassy plain in the middle of the raging waters. God’s hand (χειρί) protected them as they passed through the Red Sea together like horses and lambs. They praised the Lord (Κύριε) for their deliverance.

The praying to false idols (Wis 13:17-13:19)

“When he prays

About possessions,

His marriage,

His children,

He is not ashamed

To address a lifeless thing.

For health,

He appeals to a thing that is weak.

For life

He prays to a thing that is dead.

For aid

He entreats a thing that is utterly inexperienced.

For a prosperous journey,

He asks a thing that cannot take a step.

For money-making,

For work,

For success with his hands,

He asks strength of a thing

Whose hands have no strength.”

Now what seems ridiculous happens. This carpenter now turns to worship the image that he just created. In fact, he prays (προσευχόμενος) to this image for protection of his possessions, his marriage, and his children. He is not ashamed to speak to this lifeless image that he himself created. The author then points out the incredulity of this picture. The woodcutter prays for health to a weak piece of wood. He prays for life and asks for aid from a dead (νεκρὸν) piece of wood. He asks for help on his journey from something that cannot even walk. He asks for money and success in his work from a weak piece of wood with no strength. The irony is evident.

Do not use your property as collateral (Prov 6:1-6:5)

“My child!

If you have given your pledge to your neighbor,

If you have bound yourself to another,

You are snared by the utterance of your lips.

You are caught by the words of your mouth.

Do this!

My child!

Save yourself!

You have come into your neighbor’s power.

Go!

Hurry!

Plead with your neighbor!

Give your eyes no sleep.

Give your eyelids no slumber.

Save yourself

Like a gazelle from the hunter!

Save yourself

Like a bird from the hand of the fowler!”

This paternal advice continues with a strange admonition. It seems that there was an ancient custom of pledging your house to help a neighbor. However, here the father warns his children against doing this. If you have already pledged to help, then you are stuck with your own words. However, then it is time to negotiate a resolution with your neighbor since you are under his power. Plead with him until you get this resolved. Do not get any sleep until this is straightened out. You have to save yourself because you are being hunted like a hunter after an animal or a bird that is already caught in a trap.

The loose woman (Prov 5:1-5:6)

“My child!

Be attentive to my wisdom!

Incline your ear to my understanding!

Thus you may hold on to prudence.

Thus your lips may guard knowledge.

The lips of a loose woman drip honey.

Her speech is smoother than oil.

But in the end

She is as bitter as wormwood.

She is as sharp as a two-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death.

Her steps follow the path to Sheol.

She does not keep straight on the path of life.

Her ways wander.

She does not know it.”

Once again, we have a parental warning, but this time it is about the loose or strange woman also mentioned in chapter 2. There is the usual admonition to pay attention and listen to his words of wisdom and understanding. He wanted his children to have prudence and knowledge. Then he went into a description of this loose or strange woman. Her lips were sweeter than honey and her speech smoother than oil. However she was bitter like wormwood, some kind of bitter plant. She also was a sharp two edged sword that would lead to death in Sheol. She did not keep to the straight and narrow path of life. She was a wanderer, but did not know it. There does not seem to be any sexual overtones, but a mere unflattering portrayal of this loose or strange woman.

Keep on the straight and narrow (Prov 4:20-4:27)

“My child!

Be attentive to my words!

Incline your ear to my sayings.

Do not let them escape from your sight.

Keep them within your heart!

They are life to those who find them.

They are healing to all their flesh.

Keep your heart with all vigilance!

The springs of life flow from your heart.

Put away from you crooked speech!

Put devious talk far from you!

Let your eyes look directly forward.

Your gaze should be straight before you.

Keep straight the path of your feet!

Then all your ways will be sure.

Do not swerve to the right or to the left!

Turn your foot away from evil!”

The parental fatherly advice concludes this chapter. They are to keep on the straight and narrow path. Once again, he asks his children to be attentive and listen to his words. They are not to let his words escape, but rather keep them in their hearts. If they do that, then they will have life and healing. The heart is where all life comes from, so that your heart had to be vigilant. They were not to have crooked or devious speech. Their eyes should always be looking forward with a gaze straight ahead. They had to keep their feet on the straight path, never swerving to the right or the left. They were, of course, to stay away from evil.

Parental wisdom teaching (Prov 4:1-4:9)

“Children!

Listen to a father’s instruction!

Be attentive!

Thus you may gain insight into truth.

I give you good precepts.

Do not forsake my teaching.

When I was a son with my father,

I was tender.

I was my mother’s favorite.

He taught me.

He said to me.

‘Let your heart hold fast my words.

Keep my commandments.

Thus you will live.

Get wisdom!

Get insight!

Do not forget!

Do not turn away from the words of my mouth!

Do not forsake her!

She will keep you.

Love her!

Thus she will guard you.

The beginning of wisdom is this.

Get wisdom!

Whatever else you get,

Get insight!

Prize her highly!

Thus she will exalt you.

She will honor you

If you embrace her.

She will place on your head

A fair garland.

She will bestow on you

A beautiful crown.’”

Once again, we have paternal instruction. This father wanted his children to be attentive so that they could gain some insight. He wanted them not to forget his good teaching, since he was only doing what his father had done to him. He had been the favorite of his mother. He believed that he should follow his father’s words and commands. If they did the same, they would have a good life. In a tautology, he said that the beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom. Wow! They were to get wisdom and insight, first and foremost. They were not to forsake lady wisdom. If they kept her, she would keep them. If they loved wisdom, she would protect them. If they prized her, she would exalt them. If they embraced her, she would honor them. Thus they would have a wonderful Roman garland and a beautiful crown.