“Do not seek from the Lord a high office!
Do not seek the seat of honor from the king!
Do not assert your righteousness before the Lord!
Do not display your wisdom before the king!
Do not seek to become a judge!
You may be unable to root out injustice.
You may be partial to the powerful.
You may mar your integrity.
Commit no offense against the public!
Do not disgrace yourself among the people!”
Sirach then gave some instructions on how to conduct yourself in public places. First, you should not seek a high office or a seat of honor from the king. Second, do not claim to be righteous before the Lord. Third, do not display your wisdom before the king. Fourth, you should not seek to become a judge because you may not be able to get rid of evil injustice. You might be partial to the powerful people and mar your own integrity. Finally, do not commit any offense against the people so that you do not end up in disgrace.
Accept my judgment!
Do not reject my counsel!
Put your feet into her fetters!
Put your neck into her collar!
Bend your shoulder!
Do not fret under her bonds!
Come to her with all your soul!
Keep her ways with all your might!
She will become known to you.
When you get hold of her,
Do not let her go.
For at last,
You will find the rest she gives.
She will be changed into joy for you.
Then her fetters will become for you a strong defense.
Her collar will be a golden ornament.
Her bonds will be a purple cord.
You will wear her like a glorious robe.
You will put her on like a splendid crown.”
Sirach wants the children to listen to him and accept his judgment. They should receive the chains of wisdom around their necks and on their feet in order to accept wisdom. They should carry her, this feminine wisdom, and let her come into their souls. They should seek and search her out. She will become known to them. They should never let her go. Their lives will be changed into joy as the chains will be a defense. They will have golden ornaments around their necks, purple cords, and a splendid crown. Just listen to what he and wisdom are telling them. This almost sounds like a masochistic love for this female wisdom.
From your youth,
When you have gray hair,
You will still find wisdom.
Come to her like one who plows.
Come to her like one who sows.
Wait for her good harvest.
When you cultivate her,
You will toil but little.
Soon you will eat of her produce.
She seems very harsh to the undisciplined.
Fools cannot remain with her.
She will be like a heavy stone to test them.
They will not delay in casting her aside.
Wisdom is like her name.
She is not really perceived by many.”
Once again, Sirach has a series of admonitions about wisdom. The young people should choose discipline. Even when they have gray hair, they should still seek wisdom. You have to have the discipline to plow and sow in order to get a good harvest of wisdom. You do not have to work too hard to eat of her products. However, this seems very harsh to the undisciplined since fools cannot remain with her. She seems to be a test like a heavy stone to these foolish undisciplined ones. The name of wisdom implies that only a few, not many people, will actually perceive her.
“Wisdom teachers her children.
Wisdom gives help to those who seek her.
Whoever loves her
Whoever seeks her from early morning
Is filled with joy.
Whoever holds her fast inherits glory.
The Lord blesses the place she enters.
Whoever serves her
Ministers to the Holy One.
The Lord loves those who love her.
Whoever obeys her
Will judge the nations.
Whoever listens to her
Will live secure.
If they remain faithful,
They will inherit her.
Their descendants will also obtain her.”
The personification of wisdom continues here with wisdom as a teacher. However, it is clear that they have to seek her out. Wisdom loves those who love her. They will be filled with joy, if they seek her in the morning. They will inherit glory. The Lord blesses everyplace that she goes. If you minister to wisdom, you are ministering to the Holy One, God. The Lord loves those who love her. If they obey wisdom, they will judge other nations and live a secure life. If they are faithful to her, they and their descendants will inherit and obtain wisdom.
“Wisdom is radiant.
Wisdom is unfading.
She is easily discerned
By those who love her.
She is found
By those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known
To those who desire her.
Whoever rises early to seek her
Will have no difficulty.
She will be found
Sitting at the gate.
To fix one’s thought on her
Is perfect understanding.
Whoever is vigilant
On her account
Will soon be free from care.
Because she goes about seeking
Those worthy of her.
She graciously appears to them
In their paths.
She meets them in every thought.”
The feminine wisdom (ἡ σοφία) is radiant and does not fade away. Wisdom is clearly portrayed as a beautiful desirable woman. If you love, seek, and desire her, you will find her as she makes herself known. If you get up early and go to the gates of the city, you will find her. If you think about her, you will understand her. If you are vigilant, you will be free from all cares. She goes about seeking those who are worthy of her as she appears in their paths.
“The fear of others lays a snare.
But one who trusts in Yahweh is secure.
Many seek the favor of a ruler.
But it is from Yahweh that one gets justice.
The unjust are an abomination to the righteous.
But the upright are an abomination to the wicked.”
We should trust in Yahweh. Do not fear others. Many seek the favor of a ruler or king, but justice comes from Yahweh. The unjust are an abomination to the righteous and vice versa. So never the twain shall meet.
“Scoffers set a city aflame.
But the wise turn away wrath.
If the wise go to law with fools,
There is ranting.
There is ridicule without relief.
The bloodthirsty hate the blameless.
They seek the life of the upright.
A fool gives full vent to his anger.
But the wise quietly hold it back.”
The scoffers or the cynics will set a city in flames with their comments. The wise, on the other hand, will turn away or stay away from anger. If there is a dispute about the law, the wise will win out because the fools will be ranting away and ridiculed non-stop. The bloodthirsty evil men hate the blameless since they seek the life of the upright ones. Fools give vent to their anger but the wise ones hold back quietly.
“Like a muddied spring,
Or a polluted fountain,
Is the righteous
Who give way before the wicked.
It is not good
To eat much honey.
It is not good
To seek honor on top of honor.
Like a city breached without walls,
Is one who lacks self control.”
The righteous who give into the wicked are like muddied spring water or polluted fountains. Do not eat too much honey. Do not seek too many honors. You need self control. Otherwise you are like an open city where there are no gates and no walls. Self control is important.
“To get wisdom is to love oneself.
To keep understanding is to prosper.
A false witness will not go unpunished.
The liar will perish.”
You love yourself if you seek wisdom. This wisdom will lead to understanding and prosperity. Then in case you forgot about the consequences for lying and bearing false witness that admonition is repeated here, a few verses after the earlier indication. Liars will not go unpunished. In fact, they will perish.