The destiny of the impious and their children (Sir 41:5-41:10)

“The children of sinners

Are abominable children.

They frequent

The haunts of the ungodly.

The inheritance

Of the children of sinners

Will perish.

On their posterity

Will be a perpetual reproach.

Children will blame

An ungodly father.

They suffer disgrace

Because of him.

Woe to you!

The ungodly!

You have forsaken

The law of the Most High God!

If you have children,

Calamity will be theirs.

You will beget them

Only for groaning.

When you stumble,

There is lasting joy.

When you die,

A curse is your lot.

Whatever comes from earth,

Returns to earth.

Thus the ungodly go

From curse to destruction.”

Sirach draws a clear line from parent to child when it comes to sinners. The children of sinners are abominable. These children will live among the ungodly, since their inheritance will be lost. These children of sinners will blame their sinful ungodly father because they suffer a perpetual disgrace due to him. Then Sirach turns directly to these ungodly folks claiming that they have forsaken the law of the Most High God. Calamity and groaning will come to their children. When they stumble, everyone will be happy. When they die, they will receive a curse. Whatever comes from earth returns there. Thus the ungodly will go from a curse to total destruction.

The impending death of old age (Eccl 12:3-12:7)

“In the day

When the guards of the house tremble,

The strong men are bent.

The women who grind cease working

Because they are few.

Those who look through the windows see dimly.

The doors on the street are shut.

The sound of the grinding is low.

One rises up at the sound of a bird.

All the daughters of song are brought low.

When one is afraid of heights,

The terrors are in the road.

The almond tree blossoms.

The grasshopper drags itself along.

Desire fails.

Because all must go to their eternal home.

The mourners will go about the streets.

The silver cord is snapped.

The golden bowl is broken.

The pitcher is broken at the fountain.

The wheel is broken at the cistern.

The dust returns to the earth as it was.

The spirit returns to God who gave it.”

This is an ode to old age. The dying old man, with his many servants and guards, comes to an end. The guards tremble. The strong men bend over. The women grinders stop their dancing. They can only see dimly out the window. Everyone has shut their doors. The grinders have ceased. Morning comes early with the first sound of a bird. There are no more singing young girls. The old man is afraid of heights. He dreads going out on the road because of the fear of attack. The old people tend to walk awkwardly like a grasshopper. Their desires fail maybe due to incompetence. The trees still blossom, but the mourners are out on the streets. The signs of death, the snapped silver cord, the broken gold bowl, and the broken pitcher at the fountain all take place. The wheel was broken at the cistern. They return to dust, but their spirit or breath returns to God. This is a depressing description of old age, just before death, along with the symbolic actions that go with death.

The fate of the wicked ones (Ps 7:12-7:16)

“If one does not repent,

God will sharpen his sword.

He has bent and strung his bow.

He has prepared his deadly weapons,

He makes his arrows fiery shafts.

See how they conceive evil!

They are pregnant with mischief.

They bring forth lies.

They make a pit.

They dig it out.

They fall into the hole that they have made.

Their mischief returns upon their own heads.

On their own heads violence descends.”

If the wicked ones do not repent, God will sharpen his sword against them. The bows and arrows will be ready like deadly fiery arrows. Notice that the wicked ones are always conceiving evil. In a colorful phrase, they are pregnant with mischief. The result of their pregnancy is lies. They dig out pits to snare people, but they fall into their own traps. Thus their conceived mischief and violence returns and descends on their own heads. The tables are turned on the violent wicked ones.