A jealous God.
An avenging God.
Yahweh takes vengeance
On his adversaries.
Against his enemies.
Slow to anger.
But Yahweh is
Great in power.
By no means
Clear the guilty.”
This book opens with an incomplete acrostic psalm, as it only gets to the letter Kaph. However, this opening letter Aleph is very clear. Yahweh was a jealous, avenging, and wrathful God. He took out his vengeance and raged against his adversaries and enemies. However, Yahweh was slow to anger, but he was very powerful. Thus, he would not clear the guilty ones very easily.
“‘Whom do you surpass
Be laid to rest
With the uncircumcised!’
They shall fall
Who are killed
By the sword.
Egypt has been
To the sword.
With its hordes!
The mighty chiefs
Shall speak of them,
With their helpers,
Out of the midst of Sheol.
‘They have come down!
They lie still!
Killed by the sword.’”
This section opens with a sarcastic question about who is more beautiful. The response is that they are to go down and lie with the uncircumcised people and those killed by the sword. Egypt with the multitude of their inhabitants has been handed over to death. The mighty chiefs with their helpers will speak to them in the middle of Sheol, the shadowy underworld of the afterlife. They will say that the Egyptians have come down to lie quietly with the uncircumcised and those killed by the sword, which is the worst place in Sheol.
“Whoever throws a stone straight up
Throws it on his own head.
A treacherous blow
Opens up many wounds.
Whoever digs a pit
Will fall into it.
Whoever sets a snare
Will be caught in it.
If a person does evil,
It will roll back upon him.
He will not know
Where it came from.”
Sirach then has a series of paradoxes. If you throw a stone straight up in the air, it will land on your head. A treacherous blow opens many wounds. If you dig a pit, you will fall into it. If you set a snare, you will be caught in it. Whenever you do evil, it will roll back on you. However, you will have no idea where it came from.
“Keep strict watch
Over a headstrong daughter.
Otherwise when she finds liberty,
She will make use of it.
Be on guard
Against her impudent eye.
Do not be surprised
If she sins against you.
As a thirsty traveler
Opens his mouth to drink
From any water near him,
So she will sit
In front of every tent peg.
She will open her quiver
To the arrow.”
Sirach has some advice on how to handle a headstrong daughter. Notice that there is no mention of a headstrong son. This daughter will try to exercise her freedom. However, the father is warned against this, because she may have an impudent eye. In fact, she may sin not against God, but this father, as if he were God. She is like a thirsty traveler who opens his mouth to drink any kind of water. She will sit in front of the tent by the pegs that hold it down. There she will open her archery quiver so that others may put their arrows into it. This sounds like a sexual allusion. Thus there is a need to keep an eye on all young daughters, so that they do not stray from their father’s wishes.
“Yahweh executes justice for the oppressed.
Yahweh gives food to the hungry.
Yahweh sets the prisoners free.
Yahweh opens the eyes of the blind.
Yahweh lifts up those who are bowed down.
Yahweh loves the righteous.
Yahweh watches over the strangers.
Yahweh upholds the orphan and the widow.
Yahweh brings to ruin the way of the wicked.”
Yahweh makes sure that there is justice for the oppressed. He gives food to the hungry. He sets prisoners free. He opens the eyes of the blind. He lifts up those who are bowed down. He loves the righteous. He watches over strangers. He helps orphans. He holds up widows. However, he brings to ruin those who are pursuing wicked ways.
Yahweh is faithful in all his words.
He is gracious in all his deeds.
Yahweh upholds all who are falling.
He raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you.
You give them their food in due season.
You open your hand.
You satisfy the desire of every living thing.
Yahweh is just in all his ways.
He is kind in all his doings.
Yahweh is near to all who call upon him.
He is near to all who call upon him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of all who fear him.
He also hears their cry.
He saves them.
Yahweh watches over all who love him.
But he will destroy all the wicked.”
Yahweh is faithful in his words and gracious in his deeds. He holds up all who are falling. He raises up those bowed down. He gives them food in due season. He opens his hand to fulfill desires. Yahweh is just in his ways and kind in his actions. He is near to those who truthfully call upon him. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him. He can hear their cry and save them. He watches over all those who love him. However, he will destroy the wicked. The next 8 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are found here in italic.
“These all look to you.
You give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them,
They gather it up.
When you open your hand,
They are filled with good things.
When you hide your face,
They are dismayed.
When you take away their breath,
They return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit,
They are created.
You renew the face of the earth.”
Everything depends on Yahweh. In a series of “when” sentences, this psalmist reinforces the power of Yahweh. All food comes from Yahweh in due season. They are filled with good things when Yahweh opens his hand. When he hides his face, they are dismayed. Of course, Yahweh controls their breath. When he takes it away, they die and return to dust. Then the often repeated phrase, “Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created” ends this section. The Spirit of God is the source of all life. Yahweh alone renews the face of the earth.