“As the fat is set apart
From the offering of well-being,
So David was set apart
From the Israelites.
He played with lions
As though they were young goats.
He played with bears
As though they were lambs of the flock.
In his youth
Did he not kill a giant?
Did he take away the people’s disgrace?
Did he not whirl the stone in the sling?
Did he not strike down
The boasting Goliath?
He called on the Lord,
The Most High.
He gave him strength
To his right hand.
He struck down a mighty warrior.
He exalted the power of his people.”
Sirach sets out to portray David as a super hero, not just a holy famous man. He was set apart from all Israelites, like the fat at a sacrificial offering. As a young boy, he played with lions and bears as if they were goats and lambs. Then he killed the giant Goliath with his sling shot as found in 1 Samuel, chapter 17. He did this because he had called on the name of the Lord, the Most High God. Thus he exalted the power of his people with all these exploits. This was super David. It is interesting to note that Sirach did not consider the first king of Israel, King Saul, as a famous holy man, only this second king of Israel, the super hero King David.
“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.
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.
“Why is it?
Why do you flee?
Why do you turn back?
Why do you skip like rams?
Why do skip like lambs?
Tremble at the presence of Yahweh!
Tremble at the presence of the God of Jacob!
He turns the rock into a pool of water.
He turns the flint into a spring of water.”
This short psalm concludes with wondering why nature was so submissive to Yahweh. Why did the Red Sea flee and spread apart? Why did the Jordan River turn back? Why were the mountains and hills skipping like rams and lambs? The answer was, of course, they trembled at the presence of Yahweh, the God of Jacob. Yahweh was able to turn rock and flint into water.
“The sea looked.
The sea fled.
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams.
The hills skipped like lambs.”
The Red Sea got out of the way of the Israelites. The Jordan River turned back. The mountains and the hills were so happy that they skipped like rams and lambs. The sea and the land accepted the Israelites.
“At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to Yahweh. They also delivered the king’s commissions to the governors of the province Beyond the River. They supported the people and the house of God.”
This group then got together. They offered burnt offerings to God for their successful return to Jerusalem. This included 12 bulls, 96 rams, 77 lambs, and 12 goats. Notice the 12 bulls and 12 goats as a remembrance of the 12 now non-existant 12 tribes of Israel. This was a burnt offering. Notice the change from a first person narrative to a third person explanation. They also reported to the governors of the Province Beyond the River, which would have been in Samaria. Meanwhile they supported the people there and the Temple.
“The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. They offered at the dedication of this house of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs. Then they had a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. Then they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.”
This appears to be the end of the Aramaic section of this book. This celebration is like at the time of Solomon, in 1 Kings, chapter 8, only more subdued. Certainly the priests, Levites, and the returned exiles were there, but there is no mention of the other Israelites who had not gone into captivity. These offerings are rather small when compared with earlier great celebrations. There were100 bulls, 200 rams, and 400 lambs, which is quite substantial. They even had the scapegoat sin offering of 12 goats for the 12 tribes of Israel. However, this celebration was really for the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Very little was said about the other tribes. In fact, many of them may be their enemies now. Finally the priests and Levites were set in their distinctive Temple classes. Once again, it was King David who set up these classes and not Moses, even though the euphemism of “the book of Moses” is mentioned.
“Then King Josiah contributed to the people, as Passover offerings for all that were present, lambs and kids from the flock to the number of thirty thousand, and three thousand bulls. These were from the king’s possessions. His officers contributed willingly to the people, to the priests, and to the Levites. Hilkiah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, the chief officers of the house of God, gave to the priests for the Passover offerings two thousand six hundred lambs and kids and three hundred bulls. Conaniah also, and his brother Shemaiah and Nethanel, as well as Hashabiah, Jeiel, and Jozabad, the chiefs of the Levites, gave to the Levites for the Passover offerings five thousand lambs and kids and five hundred bulls.”
King Josiah provided the animals for the Passover. They had 30,000 lamb kids and 3,000 bulls. Also the royal officials contributed along with the high priests of the Temple, led by Hilkiah, 2,600 lambs and 300 bulls. The Levites, led by Conaniah, contributed 5,000 lambs and 500 bulls. Thus there were over 37,600 lambs and 3,800 bulls so that there would be a lot of slaughtered lambs and bulls available for this great Passover.
“King Hezekiah said. ‘You have now consecrated yourselves to Yahweh. Come near! Bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of Yahweh.’ The assembly brought sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings. All who were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings. The number of the burnt offerings that the assembly brought was seventy bulls, one hundred rams, and two hundred lambs. All these were for a burnt offering to Yahweh. The consecrated offerings were six hundred bulls and three thousand sheep. However, the priests were too few and could not skin all the burnt offerings. Thus until other priests had sanctified themselves, their kindred the Levites helped them, until the work was finished. The Levites were more conscientious than the priests in sanctifying themselves. Besides the great number of burnt offerings, there was the fat of the peace offerings of well-being, and there were the drink offerings for the burnt offerings. Thus the service of the house of Yahweh was restored. King Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people. This thing had come about suddenly.”
Now all the people come for a great feast. With the inauguration of the newly sanctified house of Yahweh, King Hezekiah invited all the people to bring sacrifices and peace offering. In the first sacrifices there were 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs. Then they brought the consecrated offerings of 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep. Thus the numbers begin to rise. There was so much slaughtering to be done that the priests needed the help of the Levites. Apparently the Levites had been more serious about purifying themselves. King Hezekiah and everyone with him was quite happy because the worship services at the Temple had been restored in a relatively short time period. This was unlike the slow moving repairs that King Joash tried to get done in chapter 24.