The artisans (Sir 38:27-38:30)

“Every master artisan

Labors by night

As well as by day.

Those who cut the signets of seals,

Each is diligent

In making a great variety.

They set their heart

On painting a lifelike image.

They are careful

To finish their work.

The smith sits by the anvil.

He is intent on his iron-work.

The breath of the fire

Melts his flesh.

He struggles

With the heat of the furnace.

The sound of the hammer

Deafens his ears.

His eyes are

On the pattern of the object.

He sets his heart

On finishing his handiwork.

He is careful

To complete its decoration.

The potter sits at his work.

He turns the wheel

With his feet.

He is always deeply concerned

Over his products.

He produces them in quantity.

He moulds the clay with his arm.

He makes it pliable with his feet.

He sets his heart

To finish the glazing,

He takes care

In firing the kiln furnace.”

Sirach then explained in detail about the various skilled artists who work day and night to finish their creative works. First, there were those who made the various colorful painted seals as lifelike as possible. Then there were the blacksmiths who worked in iron with a hammer, anvil, and a hot furnace that affected their hands, ears, and eyes. Finally, there was the potter who made lots of different products. He molded the clay with his hands and feet. He finished it off by glazing it in the kiln furnace. All these artisans worked diligently until they completed their products.

The false worship of kings (Wis 14:17-14:21)

“When people could not honor monarchs

In their presence,

Since they lived at a distance,

They imagined their appearance from far away.

They made a visible image of the king,

Whom they honored.

Thus by their zeal

They might flatter the absent one as though present.

Then the ambition of the craftsman impelled

Even those who did not know the king

To intensify their worship.

Perhaps wishing to please his ruler,

They skillfully forced the likeness

To take a more beautiful form.

The multitude,

Attracted by the charm of their work,

Now regarded as an object of worship

The one whom shortly before

They had honored as a man.

This became a hidden trap for humankind.

Because men,

In bondage to misfortune

Or to royal authority,

Bestowed on objects of stone

Or wood

The name that ought not to be shared.”

How did kings and rulers become gods? Once again this author has an explanation of how this happened. First, some of the subjects never saw the king because they lived too far away. Since they wanted to know what he looked like, a visible image was created. With the passage of time, the artisans made the king look better than in real life. Thus the worship of the king’s image became a worship object to those who never met the ruler or king. Gradually these beautiful objects of stone became objects of worship because of royal authority. The similarity between the ruler and God was now complete. The ruler was a god so that his image should be worshipped. This was particularly true in the Hellenistic times.