The difficulties of King Solomon (Sir 47:19-47:22)

“You brought in women

To lie at your side.

Through your body,

You were brought

Into subjection.

You stained your honor.

You defiled your family line.

You brought wrath

Upon your children.

They were grieved

At your folly.

Because the sovereignty

Was divided.

A rebel kingdom

Arose out of Ephraim.

But the Lord

Will never give up his mercy.

He will not cause

Any of his works to perish.

He will never blot out

The descendants of his chosen one.

He will not destroy

The family line

Of him who loved him.

So he gave a remnant to Jacob.

To David

He gave a root of his stock.”

Unlike the other famous holy men, Sirach points out some problems with King Solomon. He had a woman problem. As usual, Sirach blames them rather than Solomon. However, he did point out that Solomon brought in women to lie with him that reduced his strength and power. Solomon thus stained the family line with this dishonor. Thus his children suffered with the split in the Israelite kingdom. At the death of King Solomon, the rebels in Ephraim took over the northern part of the kingdom, so that only Judah was left. However, the Lord was merciful and never gave up, so that the family line was not destroyed. They just had less power. The remnant remained of Jacob and David and his family. The roots were still there, even if the tree was smaller.

The nothingness of humans (Sir 18:8-18:14)

“What are human beings?

What use are they?

What is good about them?

What is evil about them?

The number of days in their life is great,

If they reach one hundred years.

The death of each one

Is beyond the calculation of all.

Like a drop of water from the sea,

Like a grain of sand,

So are these few years

Among the days of eternity.

Therefore the Lord is patient with them.

He pours out his mercy upon them.

He sees them.

He recognizes

That their end is miserable.

Therefore he grants them forgiveness all the more.

The compassion of human beings

Is for their neighbors.

But the compassion of the Lord

Is for every living thing.

He rebukes them.

He trains them.

He teaches them.

He turns them back,

As a shepherd his flock.

He has compassion on those

Who accept his discipline.

He has compassion on those

Who are eager for his precepts.”

Sirach points out that human beings, in contrast to the greatness of God, are useless, like a later 20th century existential 1943 Jean Paul Sartre work, Being and Nothingness. They have a little good and little evil in them, but they have a short unpredictable life, at best 100 years long. Their lives are like a drop of water in the sea or a grain of sand on the shore compared to divine eternity. That is why the Lord is patient and merciful with them. He knows that they will come to a miserable end, so that he grants them forgiveness. While the compassion of humans is for their neighbors, the compassion of the Lord is for all living things. Like a theme later attributed to Jesus, Sirach sees the Lord as a shepherd who rebukes, trains, teaches, and takes his sheep back and forth. The Lord has compassion for those who accept his discipline and precepts.

Invitation to repent (Sir 17:25-17:32)

“Turn back to the Lord!

Forsake your sins!

Pray in his presence!

Lessen your offenses!

Return to the Most High!

Turn away from iniquity!

He will lead you out of darkness

To the light.

Hate intensely

What he abhors!

Who will sing praises

To the Most High

In Hades?

In place of the living,

Who gives thanks?

From the dead,

As from one who does not exist,

Thanksgiving has ceased.

Those who are alive and well

Sing the Lord’s praises.

How great is

The mercy of the Lord!

His forgiveness is

For those who return to him!

Not everything is within human capability.

Since human beings are not immortal.

What is brighter than the sun?

Yet it can be eclipsed.

Flesh and blood devise evil.

He marshals the host of the height of heaven.

But all human beings are dust.

All human beings are ashes.”

Much like the later John the Baptist, Sirach here is calling for all to repent. Turn to the Lord! Give up sinning! Pray to the Lord! Turn to the Most High! Turn away from iniquity! No one can sing the praises of the Lord from Hades, the home of the dead. Only the living can give thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. The Lord is merciful. He will forgive those who return to him. Humans have limited capacities, since they are not immortal. Even the bright sun gets eclipsed. Flesh and blood humans devise evil because they are mere dust and ashes. However, the Lord has his hosts in the high heavens.

False presumption (Sir 5:4-5:7)

“Do not say.

‘I sinned.

Yet what has happened to me?’

The Lord is slow to anger.

Do not be so confident of forgiveness.

Thus you add sin to sin.

Do not say.

‘His mercy is great.

He will forgive the multitude of my sins.’

Both mercy and wrath are with him.

His anger rests on sinners.

Do not delay

To turn back to the Lord.

Do not postpone it from day to day.

Suddenly the wrath of the Lord

Will come upon you.

At the time of punishment,

You will perish.”

Here are some more directives about false presumption. Do not say that you have sinned and nothing has happened to you. Remember that the Lord is slow to anger. You should not be overconfident of his forgiveness because you are only adding to your sinful state. Do not say that he is merciful and therefore he will forgive a multitude of sins. He has both mercy and anger, especially towards sinners. Do not delay your return to the Lord. Do not put it off because the wrath of the Lord will come upon you suddenly. You may perish as a punishment.

Past history (Sir 2:10-2:11)

“Consider the generations of old.

See the generations of old.

Has anyone who trusted in the Lord been disappointed?

Has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord been forsaken?

Has anyone who called upon him been neglected?

The Lord is compassionate.

The Lord is merciful.

He forgives sins.

He saves in time of distress.”

See what happened to your ancestors, the generations of old. Has anyone who trusted in the Lord been disappointed?   Has anyone been forsaken who preserved in the fear of the Lord? Has anyone been neglected who called upon the Lord? After all, the Lord is compassionate, merciful, and forgiving. He will save you in the time of distress.

Merciful God (Wis 15:1-15:3)

“But you!

Our God!

You are kind.

You are true.

You are patient.

You rule all things in mercy.

Even if we sin,

We are yours.

We know your power.

But we will not sin.

Because we know

That you acknowledge us as yours.

To know you

Is complete righteousness.

To know your power

Is the root of immortality.”

This author makes a direct appeal to God (ὁ Θεὸς) who is kind (χρηστὸς), true (ἀληθής), and patient (μακρόθυμος). They knew he was merciful (ἐν ἐλέε). Even if they sinned (ἁμάρτωμεν), they knew that they were still his. Knowing God made them righteous (δικαιοσύνη), he gave them the possibility of immortality (ἀθανασίας).

The power of God (Wis 11:21-11:26)

“It is always in your power

To show great strength.

Who can withstand the might of your arm?

Because the whole world is before you

Like a speck that tips the scales.

It is like a drop of morning dew

That falls upon the ground.

But you are merciful to all.

You can do all things.

You overlook people’s sins.

Thus they may repent.

You love all things that exist.

You detest none of the things

That you have made.

You would not have made anything

If you had hated it.

How would anything have endured,

If you had not willed it?

How would anything not called forth by you

Have been preserved?

You spare all things.

They are yours. O Lord!

You love the living!”

This is like a great prayer to God, who has power and strength. No one is able to withstand the might of his arm. The whole world (ὅλος ὁ κόσμος) is like a speck or a drop of morning dew before him. This is reminiscent of the folk spiritual song He’s got the Whole World in his Hands. God is also merciful to all. He overlooks people’s sins so that man can repent (ἀνθρώπων εἰς μετάνοιαν). He loves (ἀγαπᾷς) all things, but he detests none since he made everything. If God hated anything, it would not endure. If he did not will it, it would not happen. He has preserved all things, since all belongs to the Lord who loves all (πάντων) living things.

Yahweh is gracious (Ps 145:8-145:9)

Het

“Yahweh is gracious.

Yahweh is merciful.

He is slow to anger.

He is abounding in steadfast love.

Tet

Yahweh is good to all.

His compassion is over all that he has made.”

In very simple terms, the love and graciousness of Yahweh is made clear. Yahweh is gracious and merciful. He is slow to anger because of his abundant steadfast love. He is good to all people because of his great compassion for all his creation. The next 2 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are found here in italic.

Yahweh is gracious (Ps 116:5-116:7)

“Gracious is Yahweh!

Righteous is Yahweh!

Our God is merciful!

Yahweh protects the simple.

When I was brought low,

He saved me.

Return!

O my soul!

To your rest!

Yahweh has dealt bountifully with you.”

Then the psalmist addressed God directly but yet at the same time talking about him. Yahweh is gracious, righteous, and merciful. His God, Yahweh protects the simple. When he was in a bad situation, Yahweh saved him. He wanted his soul to return to peace and rest.

The righteous (Ps 112:1-112:6)

“Praise Yahweh!

Aleph 

Happy are those who fear Yahweh!

Bet      

Happy are those who greatly delight in his commandments!

Gimel

Their descendants will be mighty in the land.

Dalet  

The generation of the upright will be blessed.

He      

Wealth and riches are in their houses.

Vav     

Their righteousness endures forever.

Zain   

They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright.

Het     

They are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

Tet      

It is well with those who deal generously and lend.

Yod     

They conduct their affairs with justice.

Kaph  

The righteous will never be moved.

Lamed

They will be remembered forever.”

Psalm 112 is a companion psalm to Psalm 111. Even though it is fairly short, it is another line by line acrostic or Hebrew alphabet psalm without any title. Just like the preceding psalm, it also starts with the refrain “Praise Yahweh” or the Alleluia cry, the Hebrew word “Hallelujah.” Although there is a comparison between the righteous and the wicked, the emphasis is mostly on the righteous. The righteous are happy because they fear God. They delight in his commandments. Their descendants will be mighty. The generations of the upright are blessed and happy since their righteousness endures forever. They will have wealth and riches in their houses. They will be the light in the darkness. They are gracious, merciful, and righteous, just like Yahweh. They will be generous and just. They will be remembered because of their righteousness.