Buildings and sinners (Sir 21:8-21:10)

“Whoever builds his house

With other people’s money is

Like one who gathers stones

For his burial mound.

An assembly of the wicked is

Like a bundle of tow.

Their end is a blazing fire.

The way of sinners is

Paved with smooth stones.

But at its end is

The pit of Hades.”

Building your house with borrowed money is like gathering stones to build a burial mound. This is a fool’s task. You should probably wait until you have your own money to start building. Next Sirach warns us against “tow”, which is a kind of hemp or flax. He compares a bundle of this crop to an assembly of wicked people. They both will end up in a blazing fire. Then we have the expression about the sinner’s path that is paved with smooth stones that lead to hell or Hades, the afterlife underworld.

The proclamation about Simon and Jonathan (1 Macc 14:29-14:34)

“Since wars often occurred in the country,

Simon son of Mattathias,

A priest of the sons of Joarib,

And his brothers

Exposed themselves to danger.

They resisted the enemies of their nation,

In order that their sanctuary

And the law might be preserved.

They brought great glory to their nation.

Jonathan rallied the nation.

He became their high priest.

He was gathered to his people.

When their enemies

Decided to invade their country

And lay hands on their sanctuary,

Then Simon rose up and fought for his nation.

He spent great sums of his own money.

He armed the soldiers of his nation.

He paid them wages.

He fortified the towns of Judea,

And Beth-zur on the borders of Judea,

There formerly the arms of the enemy had been stored.

He placed there a garrison of Jews.

He also fortified Joppa, which is by the sea

He fortified Gazara, which is on the borders of Azotus.

There the enemy formerly dwelt.

He settled Jews there.

He provided in those towns

Whatever was necessary for their restoration.”

Ever since there were wars in Judah, Simon and his brothers risked danger to fight the enemies of their nation. They wanted to protect the sanctuary and the law. They brought great glory to their nation. Jonathan was the high priest who rallied the people when the invasions took place. Simon, on the other hand, spent his own money to build up the military. There is no indication where he got this money. He also fortified the towns of Beth-zur and the borders of Judea. He set up Jewish garrisons to protect the arms that they had. He also fortified the sea ports of Joppa and Gaza, where he put Jewish settlers there. Interesting, there is no mention of Judas Maccabeus in this decree.