Confidence in the Lord (Sir 11:14-11:19)

“Good things and bad,

Life and death,

Poverty and wealth,

All come from the Lord.

The Lord’s gift remains

With the devout.

His favor brings lasting success.

One becomes rich

Through diligence.

One becomes rich

Through self-denial.

The reward allotted to him is this.

When he says.

‘I have found rest.

Now I shall feast on my goods!’

He does not know

How long it will be

Until he leaves them to others,

Until he dies.”

Everything comes from the Lord, both good and bad, life and death, as well as poverty and wealth. The Lord graces or gifts those who are devout. The Lord’s favor brings lasting success. You can become rich through diligence and self-denial. You might even say that you want to enjoy your wealth. However, you have no idea how long you will be able to do this because death is always looming. Someone else will probably enjoy these things that you worked so hard to get.

Death (Wis 16:13-16:14)

“You have power over life and death.

You lead mortals down to the gates of Hades.

You lead them back again.

A person in his wickedness kills another.

But he cannot bring back the departed spirit.

He cannot set free the imprisoned soul.”

This author clearly assigns to God the power of life and death (ζωῆς καὶ θανάτου). There is a contrast with the great power of God with the limitations of humans. In fact, this author says that God leads them down to Hades (ᾅδου) and back. However, humans cannot bring back an imprisoned soul (ψυχὴν) or a departed spirit (πνεῦμα).

The two paths (Deut 30:15-30:20)

“See, I have set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of Yahweh your God that I am commanding you today, by loving Yahweh your God, by walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous. Yahweh your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you will not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving Yahweh your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him. For that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that Yahweh swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

This idea of the two ways, one of death and one of life, is very common among many religions. The early Christian teachings of the Didache used this concept, as did many other dualistic religions that point to the choice of life or death, good or bad, the basic choices in life. Yahweh is giving you the choice, life and prosperity or death and adversity. You choose your path. You get either the blessings or the curses.