“Two kinds of individuals
A third incurs wrath.
Hot passion blazes
Like a burning fire.
Will not be quenched
Until it burns itself out.
Whoever commits fornication
With his near of kin
Will never cease
Until the fire burns him up.
To a fornicator,
All bread is sweet.
He will never cease
Until he dies.”
Here Sirach is like Proverbs with a numerical proverb that is a little unclear. Some sinners multiply their sins, basically those with sins of passion. However, another kind of sinner incurs the wrath of God. Obviously, fornication is wrong. Hot passion blazes like a burning fire until it is quenched and burns itself out. The big sin is sexual fornication with a relative. Sirach believes that this fornicator will not cease until fire burns him up. Each fornicator believes that all bread is sweet, since they make no distinction on who they get involved with. They will only cease their bad habits at death. This is a strong condemnation of the indiscriminate sexual offender, especially those who get sexually involved with their own family members.
“If you have been foolish,
Put your hand on your mouth.
If you have been devising evil,
Put your hand on your mouth.
Pressing milk produces curds.
Pressing the nose produces blood.
Pressing anger produces strife.”
This numerical interlude ends with a warning about being foolish without self discipline. If you tried to exalt yourself, put a hand to your mouth to stop talking. If you have been devising evil, put a hand to your mouth so that evil does not come out of your mouth. Pressing or suppressing things may have evil consequences. If you press milk you end up with curds. If you press your nose, it will bleed. If you press your anger, it will produce strife.
“Three things are stately in their stride.
Four are stately in their gait.
The lion is the mightiest among wild animals.
It does not turn back before any.
The others are
The strutting rooster,
Finally the king
Who strides before his people.”
Finally, we have the last 4 and 3 numerical proverb. There are 4 stately striders: 1) the lion, 2) the rooster, 3) the male goat, and 4) the king. Interesting enough the bull and the deer are missing from this stately list. The lion is the mightiest among all the animals that never turn back. The strutting rooster and the male goat once again emphasis the strutting male. The king, however, also strides before all his people.
“Under three things the earth trembles.
Under four it cannot bear up.
When a slave becomes king,
When a fool is glutted with food,
When an unloved woman gets a husband,
When a maid succeeds her mistress.”
Once again we are back at the numerical proverb of 3 and 4. The earth trembles. There are 4 things that this author cannot bear: 1) a slave who becomes a king, 2) a fool filled with food, 3) an unloved woman with a husband, and 4) a maid that succeeds her mistress. These seem like annoying circumstances for an elite person who does not like people moving out of their social class status. However, there is a sensibility to the unloved wife and the scorned mistress.