The wild animals compared to the heavenly bodies (Bar 6:68-6:69)

“The wild animals

Are better

Than the idols are.

They can flee

To shelter.

They can help themselves.

So we have no evidence

Whatever

That they are gods.

Therefore do not fear them!”

Once again, there is a comparison of the living wild animals with the dead wooden idols. Obviously, the living animals are better than these false idols because they can flee to shelter and help themselves. Thus, there is no evidence whatsoever that these idols are gods. Therefore we should not be afraid of them.

The bad rulers in Jerusalem (Isa 28:14-28:15)

“Therefore hear the word of Yahweh!

You scoffers!

You rule this people in Jerusalem!

Because you have said.

‘We have made

A covenant with death.

We have an agreement with Sheol.

When the overwhelming scourge

Passes through,

It will not come to us.

We have made lies our refuge.

We have taken shelter in falsehood.’”

Isaiah wanted the scoffers who ruled Jerusalem to listen to the word of Yahweh. However, these arrogant rulers who had given up on Yahweh responded that they had a covenant with death, perhaps with Egypt against Assyria. They had an agreement with Sheol, the underworld afterlife place. They would be safe because of their deal with death. They were going to rely on lies and falsehood as their refuge and shelter.

The future of Jerusalem (Isa 4:4-4:6)

“When Yahweh has washed away

The filth of the daughters of Zion,

When he has cleansed

The bloodstains of Jerusalem

From its midst

By a spirit of judgment,

When the cleansing

By a spirit of burning

Is complete,

Then Yahweh will create

Over the whole site of Mount Zion.

He will create over its places of assembly

A cloud by day with smoke,

By night the shining of a flaming fire.

Indeed over all the glory

There will be a canopy.

It will serve as a pavilion.

It will be a shade by day

From the heat.

It will be a refuge from storms.

It will be a shelter from rain.”

Many of these oracles of Isaiah may come from the period of the exile, when there was the hope for a future Jerusalem. Once all the filth of the daughters of Zion and all the bloodshed in Jerusalem had been cleared out by judgment and burning, then Yahweh could create a whole new site at Zion. This new place for a religious assembly at Jerusalem would have a cloud or smoke during the day. At night, there would be a bright burning flame. Over all this glory, there would be a canopy that would act as a pavilion to provide shade from the heat and shelter from storms and rain. This was obviously a less ostentatious undertaking than a whole new temple.

Fear of the Lord (Sir 34:14-34:20)

“The spirit of those

Who fear the Lord

Will live.

Their hope is in him

Who saves them.

Those who fear the Lord

Will not be timid.

They will not play the coward.

He is their hope.

Happy is the soul

That fears the Lord!

To whom does he look?

Who is his support?

The eyes of the Lord

Are on those who love him.

The Lord is a mighty shield.

The Lord is a strong support.

The Lord is a shelter

From the scorching wind.

The Lord is a shade

From the noonday sun.

The Lord is a guard

Against stumbling.

The Lord is a help

Against falling.

He lifts up the soul.

He makes the eyes sparkle.

He gives health.

He gives life.

He gives blessings.”

Sirach emphasizes the importance of fearing God with its consequences. Those who fear the Lord will live. They have hope that the Lord will save them. They will not be cowards or timid. The reason for their hope is that the Lord supports them. He loves them since he is like a shield. He provides shelter for them against the hot winds and shade against the hot midday sun. The Lord keeps them from stumbling or falling. He lifts up their souls as he makes their eyes sparkle. He gives them health, life and blessings. A lot of good things happen when you fear the Lord.

Trusting friendly neighbors (Sir 22:23-22:26)

“Gain the trust of your neighbor

In his poverty.

Thus you may rejoice with him

In his prosperity.

Stand by him

In time of his distress.

Thus you may share with him

In his inheritance.

One should not always despise

Restricted circumstances.

One should not admire

A rich person who is stupid.

The vapor of the furnace

Precedes the fire.

The smoke of the furnace

Precedes the fire.

Thus insults precede bloodshed.

I am not ashamed

To shelter a friend.

I will not hide from him.

But if harm should come to me

Because of him,

Whoever hears of it

Will beware of him.”

Friendship happens in good times as well as bad times. If you trust your neighbor in his poverty, you can rejoice with him in his prosperity. If you stand by him in his distress, you can share with him in his good times. On the other hand, you should not admire a rich stupid person or despise those in poverty. Where there is a smell and smoke, there surely will be a fire. So too, insults often precede bloodshed. So be careful! Sirach was not ashamed to shelter a friend. However, if any harm came to him because of that friend, this would be a reminder to others to be wary about what his friend had done. Even this friendship is a little shaky, so that you should always be on guard against false friends.

The curses (Sir 2:12-2:14)

“Woe to timid hearts!

Woe to slack hands!

Woe to the sinners!

They walk a double path.

Woe to the fainthearted!

They have no trust.

Therefore they will have no shelter.

Woe to you who have lost your nerve!

What will you do

When the Lord’s reckoning comes?”

Now we have a series of curses. The timid hearts, the slack hands, and the double path sinners will be cursed. The fainthearted without trust will have no shelter. If you have lost your nerve, you will be cursed. What are you going to do when the Lord comes to render judgment?

The Exodus from Egypt (Wis 10:17-10:21)

“She gave to holy people

The reward of their labors.

She guided them

Along a marvelous way.

She became a shelter to them by day.

She became a starry flame

Through the night.

She brought them over the Red Sea.

She led them through deep waters.

But she drowned their enemies.

She cast them up

From the depth of the sea.

Therefore the righteous plundered the ungodly.

They sang hymns!

O Lord!

To your holy name!

They praised with one accord

Your defending hand.

Wisdom opened the mouths

Of those who were mute.

Wisdom made the tongues

Of infants speak clearly.”

This explanation of the exodus from Egypt is based on the stories from Exodus, chapters 13-15. Once again, it is wisdom that is leading the way. Day and night, wisdom provided shelter and starlight. She had brought them over the Red Sea, so that their enemies had drowned, but they were safe. Then they plundered the Egyptian soldiers. After that they sang hymns (ὕμνησαν) to the holy name of the Lord (Κύριε, τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ἅγιόν σου). Wisdom (ἡ σοφία) opened the mouths of the mute. She made infants speak clearly.