The beauty and aroma of wisdom (Sir 24:15-24:17)

“‘Like cassia,

Like camel’s thorn,

I gave forth perfume.

I spread my fragrance,

Like choice myrrh,

Like galbanum,

Like onycha,

Like stacte,

Like the odor of incense in the tabernacle.

Like a terebinth,

I spread out my branches.

My branches are glorious.

My branches are graceful.

Like the vine

I bud forth delights.

My blossoms become glorious fruit.

My blossoms become abundant fruit.”

Sirach continued with his personification of wisdom. Here wisdom compares herself to various fragrances and fruit trees. First, she uses the fragrances of cassia, a kind of cinnamon bark, and camel’s thorn, a sweet coffee smell. Then there are fragrances that came from the gum resins of trees that became the incense used in the Temple, myrrh, galbanum, onycha, and stacte. Thus wisdom smelt like the incense used in the Jerusalem Temple tabernacle. Just as the terebinth tree spread its branches, so too, wisdom seemed to have wide branches. She was also like vines and blossoms on a fruit tree. Wisdom was then beautiful to look at and wonderful to smell.

The effect of the female lover (Song 7:6-7:9)

Male lover

“How fair you are!

How pleasant you are!

O loved one!

Delectable maiden!

You are stately as a palm tree.

Your breasts are like its clusters.

I say

I will climb the palm tree.

I will lay hold of its branches.

O may your breasts be

Like clusters of the vine!

The scent of your breath is like apples.

Your kisses are

Like the best wine

That goes down smoothly.

They glide over my lips and teeth.”

What has been the effect of this female lover on the male lover? We find that he saw her as fair, pleasant, and delectable. She appeared stately as a palm tree. Then he went into an elaborate description of her breasts that were like clusters of a palm tree, not like gazelles or fawns. He wanted to climb this palm tree and grab hold of its branches, her breasts. He wanted her breasts to be like clusters in a vineyard. Then he went on to talk about her apple scented breath. He proclaimed that her kisses were sweeter than wine. They were in fact the best wine that went done smoothly over his lips and teeth. Certainly this was a vivid graphic description of how he perceived his lover.