Wonderful Moab (Jer 48:11-48:11)

“Moab is at ease

From his youth.

He has settled

Like wine,

On its dregs.

He has not been emptied

From vessel to vessel.

He has not gone

Into exile.

Therefore his flavor

Has remained.

His aroma is unspoiled.”

Moab is masculine instead of feminine as in the preceding verses. He has been at ease since his youth. He has settled like good wine. However, there are dregs that have not been emptied or moved from barrel to barrel. Moab has never gone into exile. Thus his flavor and aroma have remained unspoiled. In other words, things have been pretty good for the Moabites up until now.

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A poem in search of wisdom (Sir 51:21-51:25)

“While I was still young,

Before I went on my travels,

I sought wisdom openly

In my prayer.

Before the temple

I asked for her.

I will search for her

Until the end.

From the first blossom

To the ripening grape,

My heart delighted in her.

My foot walked

On the straight path.

From my youth,

I followed her steps.

I inclined my ear a little.

I received her.

I found for myself much instruction.

I made progress in her.

To him who gives wisdom

I will give glory.”

This appendix about wisdom is a Hebrew alphabetic or acrostic poem, like the ending of Proverbs, chapter 31. It follows the hymn to God’s mercy, but had the same numbers so I changed them. This author or Sirach was searching for wisdom since his youth, even before he started traveling. He prayed for wisdom in the Temple. He would continue to search her out until the end of his life. Just as you watch a blossom grow into a grape, he too grew in wisdom and enjoyed every minute of it. He always walked on the straight paths, following in her footsteps. He listened to all the instructions about wisdom as he progressed. Thus he can now give glory to the one who gave him wisdom.

Praise of King Solomon (Sir 47:12-47:18)

“After David,

A wise son rose up.

Because of David,

He lived in security.

Solomon reigned

In an age of peace.

Because God

Made all his borders tranquil,

He was able

To build a house for his name.

He provided a sanctuary

To stand forever.

How wise you were

When you were young!

You overflowed

Like the Nile River

With understanding.

Your influence spread

Throughout the earth.

You filled it with proverbs

Having deep meaning.

Your fame reached

To far-off islands.

You were loved

For your peaceful reign.

Your songs,

Your proverbs,

Your parables,

With the answers you gave

Astonished the nations.

In the name of the Lord God,

Who is called the God of Israel,

You gathered gold like tin.

You amassed silver like lead.”

Sirach points out that King Solomon inherited a peaceful nation with secure borders because his father, King David had fought so many battles. Thus Solomon was able to build a Temple for the name of Yahweh and a sanctuary that would exist forever. King Solomon was wise from his youth with an understanding like that of the great Nile River. His proverbs had deep meanings, as his influence and fame spread throughout the whole world, even to far-off islands. Solomon’s songs, proverbs, and parables astonished everyone. When Solomon called upon the name of the Lord, he amassed a great fortune in gold and silver, as if they were like tin or lead.

Wisdom as a lover (Wis 8:2-8:4)

“I loved her.

I sought her

From my youth.

I desired to take her

For my bride.

I became enamored

Of her beauty.

She glorifies her noble birth

By living with God.

The Lord of all loves her.

She is an initiate

In the knowledge of God.

She is

An associate in his works.”

Now we have a profession of love for wisdom. This author seems to think that wisdom is his lover. He has loved (ἐφίλησα) her since his youth. He wanted to marry (νύμφην) her because of her beauty. She had a noble birth. She lives with God (συμβίωσιν Θεοῦ), the Lord of all. She has knowledge about God (τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐπιστήμης). She associates with God in his works (τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ). This almost appears like a mystical union of the author (Solomon) and his lover, wisdom. This sounds more like the medieval mystical nuns who loved Jesus and wanted to be his bride, but only here it is from a male perspective.

Yahweh and the royal rule (Ps 110:2-110:3)

“Yahweh sends out from Zion

Your mighty scepter.

Rule in the midst of your foes!

Your people will offer themselves willingly,

On the day you lead your forces,

On the holy mountains.

From the womb of the morning,

Like dew,

Your youth will come to you.”

This is an extremely difficult passage to understand from the Hebrew text. It appears that Yahweh sends out the mighty scepter of David from Mount Zion in Jerusalem. King David would then rule in the middle of his foes and enemies. The people would offer themselves to David and be part of his armed forces. They would set out from the holy mountains. Somehow, David would regain his youth like the dew in the early morning.

The rejection (Ps 89:38-89:45)

“But now you have spurned him.

You have rejected him.

You are full of wrath against your anointed.

You have renounced the covenant with your servant.

You have defiled his crown in the dust.

You have broken through all his walls.

You have laid his strongholds in ruins.

All who pass by despoil him.

He has become the scorn of his neighbors.

You have exalted the right hand of his foes.

You have made all his enemies rejoice.

Moreover,

You have turned back the edge of his sword.

You have not supported him in battle.

You have removed the scepter from his hand.

You hurled his throne to the ground.

You have cut short the days of his youth.

You have covered him with shame.”

Selah

Now there is a switch in tone in this psalm. Instead of the everlasting dynasty of David, this psalmist complains that God has abandoned David. In a series of complaints directly to God, using the second person “you,” he says that God has spurned and rejected David. His wrath or anger has turned on David. God has renounced the covenant with David. He has thrown his crown on the ground. He has broken down all the walls and ruined his fortresses. His foes now plunder him and scorn him as all the enemies now rejoice. The edge of his sword has turned on himself as he no longer has any support in battles. His scepter is gone as well as his youth. He is full of shame. This could be at the time of the revolt against David or a metaphor for the captivity that came to the descendents of David. The Israelites saw this captivity as a punishment from God. This section also ends with the musical interlude pause of Selah.

The old man remembers God (Ps 71:17-71:19)

“O God!

From my youth

You have taught me!

I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.

So even to old age and gray hairs.

O God!

Do not forsake me!

I proclaim your might

To all the generations to come.

O God!

Your power,

Your righteousness,

Reach the high heavens!”

This old psalmist reminds God that from his youth he had proclaimed the wondrous deeds of God even up to his present old age. Despite his grey hairs, he does not want God to leave him. This old psalmist will continue to proclaim the might of God for generations to come. The power and righteousness of God reaches to the high heavens.