The faces of the four living creatures (Ezek 1:10-1:11)

“As for the appearance

Of their faces,

Each had

The face

Of a human being

In front.

Each had

The face

Of a lion

On the right side.

Each had

The face

Of an ox

On the left side.

Each had

The face

Of an eagle

At the back.

Such were their faces.

Their wings

Were spread out above.

Each creature

Had two wings.

Each wing

Touched the wing

Of another.

The two wings

Covered their bodies.”

Each creature had the face of a human being in front. Then there was a face of a lion on the right side with a face of an ox on the left side. In the back was the face of an eagle. Interesting enough this is similar to the idea of cherubim in Assyrian and Babylonian times. They had a statue of a god who had the head of a human, the body of a lion, the paws of an ox, with wings. This same symbolism was later taken up as the symbols of the four Christian evangelists, as well as the 4 creatures of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. There is also the interpretation that these animal heads symbolize mobility, intelligence, and strength. Their wings were spread out above each of these creatures, so that they touched each other. Thus these wings covered the bodies of these creatures.

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Stay away from stupid people (Sir 22:13-22:15)

“Do not talk much

With a senseless person!

Without sense,

He will despise

Everything about you.

Do not visit

An unintelligent person!

Stay clear of him!

You may have trouble.

You may be spattered

When he shakes himself off.

Avoid him!

Then you will find rest.

You will never be wearied

By his lack of sense.

What is heavier than lead?

What is its name

Except ‘Fool’?

Sand is easier to bear

Than a stupid person.

Salt is easier to bear

Than a stupid person.

A piece of iron is easier to bear

Than a stupid person.”

Sirach warns us to stay away from stupid people. Do not talk to these senseless people. They will despise you for your intelligence. There is a kind of elitism here. He did not want you to visit with unintelligent people. Stay away from them when they shake themselves like animals, because some of their filth might spatter on you. If you stay away from them, you will not be weary of their senseless talk. A fool is heavier to bear than lead. Practically everything is easier to live with than a stupid person. Thus sand, salt, and iron is better than these stupid senseless fools.

Mourning for the foolish (Sir 22:11-22:12)

“Weep for the dead!

They have left the light behind.

Weep for the foolish!

They have left intelligence behind.

Weep less bitterly for the dead!

They are at rest.

The life of the fool is

Worse than death.

Mourning for the dead

Lasts seven days.

But for the foolish ungodly,

It lasts all their lives.”

Sirach makes an interesting comparison between the foolish living persons and the dead people. You should weep for the dead because they no longer see the light of day. However, you should also weep for the foolish ones because they have left intelligence behind. At least the dead have rest, but the fools live a life worse than death. Mourning for the dead should last 7 days, but you should mourn a lifetime for the foolish and ungodly people because they have no intelligence.

The clever ones (Sir 19:23-19:30)

“There is cleverness

That is detestable.

There is a fool

Who merely lacks wisdom.

Better are the God-fearing

Who lacks understanding

Than the highly intelligent

Who transgresses the law.

There is cleverness

That is exact

But unjust.

There are people

Who abuse favors

To gain a verdict.

There is a villain

Bowed down in mourning.

But inwardly

He is full of deceit.

He hides his face.

He pretends not to hear.

But when no one notices,

He will take advantage of you.

Even if he lacks strength

It does not keep him from sinning.

He will nevertheless do evil

When he finds the opportunity.

A person is known

By his appearance.

A sensible person is known

When first met,

Face to face.

A person’s attire shows what he is.

His hearty laughter shows what he is.

The way he walks shows what he is.”

Sirach then attacks the clever ones with their cleverness, who are really detestable fools who lack wisdom. It is better to be a God fearing person without intelligence than an intelligent transgressor of the law. There are exacting clever people who are unjust. These clever people use the legal system to avoid a bad verdict. They pretend to bow down before you, but there is only deceit in their hearts. They pretend not to hear and not to care, until the right time comes along. Then they take advantage of you. Even if these clever fools are not strong, they will try to do as much evil as they can. They will find any opportunity to be wicked. Look at the appearances of people. See what clothes they are wearing. See how they laugh and walk. Thus you can spot these clever wicked fools.

Lady wisdom speaks (Prov 8:1-8:11)

“Does not wisdom call?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights,

Beside the way,

At the crossroads,

She takes her stand.

Beside the gates

In front of the town,

At the entrance of the portals,

She cries out.

‘To you!

O people!

I call!

My cry is to all that live.

O simple ones!

Learn prudence!

Acquire intelligence!

You who lack it!

Hear!

I will speak noble things,

From my lips

Will come what is right.

My mouth will utter truth.

Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are righteous.

There is nothing twisted or crooked in them.

They are all straight to one who understands.

They are right to those who find knowledge.

Take my instruction instead of silver.

Take my knowledge rather than choice gold.

Wisdom is better than jewels.

All that you may desire cannot compare with her.’”

Lady wisdom is calling. Unlike the prostitute or adulterous woman, you should listen to her. Lady wisdom is all over the place. She raises her voice at the heights, at the crossroads, beside the town gates, and at the town entrance. There is no reason to miss her.   Her cry is to all who live, not a particular person. The simpletons were to learn prudence and intelligence. She was going to speak noble things that were right and true. There would be no wickedness, but only righteousness. Nothing is crooked, since everything is straight. You should value her instructions and knowledge more than silver, gold, or jewels. Nothing can compare with lady wisdom.

The peace treaty with Lysias (2 Macc 11:13-11:15)

“Lysias was not without intelligence. He pondered over the defeat that had befallen him. He realized that the Hebrews were invincible because the mighty God fought on their side. Thus he sent to them and persuaded them to settle everything on just terms. He promised that he would persuade the king. He constrained the king to be their friend. Judas Maccabeus, having regard for the common good, agreed to all that Lysias urged. For the king granted every request on behalf of the Jews that Judas Maccabeus had delivered to Lysias in writing.”

The peace treaty with Lysias does not come until 2 chapters later in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6, after many more battles, with King Antiochus V. In 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, Lysias returned to Antioch because King Antiochus IV had died. He feared that Philip might take over. However, the resulting peace treaty was pretty much the same. Lysias realized that he could not defeat the Hebrews because their mighty God was on their side. He promised to persuade the king who was only 10 years old. Judas Maccabees got everything that he wanted. So now we have a peace treaty. Now we will have a series of letters concerning this peace treaty.