The high priest Simon at the altar (Sir 50:11-50:15)

“When he put on

His glorious robe,

He clothed himself

In perfect splendor.

When he went up

To the holy altar,

He made the court

Of the sanctuary glorious.

When he received the portions

From the hands of the priests,

He stood by the hearth of the altar.

There was a garland

Of brothers around him.

He was

Like a young cedar on Lebanon.

They surrounded him

Like the trunks of palm trees.

All the sons of Aaron

In their splendor

Held the Lord’s offering

In their hands

Before the whole congregation of Israel.

Finishing the service at the altars,

They arranged

The offering to the Most High,

The Almighty.

He held out his hand for the cup.

He poured a drink offering

Of the blood of the grape.

He poured it out

At the foot of the altar.

It was a pleasing odor

To the Most High,

The King of all.”

Sirach explains that the high priest Simon put on his splendid glorious robe. Then he went to the holy altar in the sanctuary. He received the sacrificial gifts from the priests at the foot of the altar. He was like a Lebanon cedar tree among his brother priests who were like palm trees. All the sons of Aaron were there in their splendor as they held the Lord’s offering in their hands before the whole congregation. They arranged the offering to the Most High God, the Almighty one. Simon held out his hand and took the cup. He poured the blood of the grape drink at the foot of the altar, so that it was a pleasing odor to the King of all, the Most High God.

The bad kings (Sir 49:4-49:5)

“Except for King David,

Except for King Hezekiah,

Except for King Josiah

All of them were

Great sinners.

They abandoned

The law of the Most High.

The kings of Judah

Came to an end.

They gave their power

To others.

They gave their glory

To a foreign nation.”

Sirach points out that all the kings, whether in Judah or Israel, were great sinners, except for King David, King Hezekiah, and King Josiah. But even these kings also committed some sins. The worst, of course, were the later kings, just before the exile. Somehow these bad kings were responsible for the downfall of the Israelite and Judah kingdoms because these great sinners abandoned the law of the Most High God. They lost their power and gave away their glory to foreign nations.

The glory of King David (Sir 47:6-47:11)

“They glorified him

For the tens of thousands that he conquered.

They praised him

For the blessings bestowed

By the Lord.

The glorious diadem was given to him.

He wiped out his enemies on every side.

He annihilated his adversaries,

The Philistines.

He crushed their power even to our own day.

In all that he did

He gave thanks to the Holy One,

The Most High,

Proclaiming his glory.

He sang praise

With all his heart.

He loved his Maker.

He placed singers before the altar.

They made sweet melody with their voices.

Daily they sing his praises.

He gave beauty to the festivals.

He arranged their times

Throughout the year.

They praised God’s holy name.

The sanctuary resounded from early morning.

The Lord took away his sins.

He exalted his power forever.

He gave him a covenant of kingship.

He gave him a glorious throne in Israel.”

Sirach told of the glory of King David who had killed thousands of his enemies. He was praised for the Lord’s blessings that he had received. He was given a glorious diadem crown to wear, after an unmentioned dispute with King Saul. David wiped out his enemies, especially the Philistines, but they kept coming back for more. However, David gave thanks to the Holy One, the Most High God. He loved his creator. He sang praises to him. He had singers at the altar as well as set up wonderful festivals throughout the year. Although there is mention of a sanctuary, the Temple was not built until his son King Solomon built it. The Lord took away the sins of David and established a covenant of kingship with him on the throne in Israel. In light of what was to come, there was no eternal covenant of kingship.

The legend of King David (Sir 47:2-47:5)

“As the fat is set apart

From the offering of well-being,

So David was set apart

From the Israelites.

He played with lions

As though they were young goats.

He played with bears

As though they were lambs of the flock.

In his youth

Did he not kill a giant?

Did he take away the people’s disgrace?

Did he not whirl the stone in the sling?

Did he not strike down

The boasting Goliath?

He called on the Lord,

The Most High.

He gave him strength

To his right hand.

He struck down a mighty warrior.

He exalted the power of his people.”

Sirach sets out to portray David as a super hero, not just a holy famous man. He was set apart from all Israelites, like the fat at a sacrificial offering. As a young boy, he played with lions and bears as if they were goats and lambs. Then he killed the giant Goliath with his sling shot as found in 1 Samuel, chapter 17. He did this because he had called on the name of the Lord, the Most High God. Thus he exalted the power of his people with all these exploits. This was super David. It is interesting to note that Sirach did not consider the first king of Israel, King Saul, as a famous holy man, only this second king of Israel, the super hero King David.

Joshua (Sir 46:1-46:6)

“Joshua

Son of Nun

Was mighty in war.

He was the successor of Moses

In the prophetic office.

He became,

As his name implies,

A great savior of God’s elect.

He took vengeance

On the enemies

That rose against them.

Thus he might give Israel

Its inheritance.

How glorious he was

When he lifted his hands.

He brandished his sword

Against the cities.

Who before him,

Ever stood so firm?

He waged the wars of the Lord.

Was it not through him

That the sun stood still?

Did not one day

Become as long as two?

He called upon the Most High,

The Mighty One,

When enemies pressed him on every side.

The great Lord answered him

With hailstones of mighty power.

He overwhelmed that nation in battle.

On the slope

He destroyed his opponents.

Thus the nations might know his armament.

He was fighting

In the sight of the Lord.

He was a devoted follower of the Mighty One.”

Of course, there was a whole biblical book named after Joshua. Sirach lists him as a warrior and a prophet, who succeeded Moses. This son of Nun was a great savior of God’s people. He wiped out the enemies of Israel so that they might have their inheritance. He lifted up his hand as he swung his sword. Before him, no one had ever waged wars for the Lord like him. He stood firm and created miracles with the sun. He called upon the Most High God, the mighty one, when enemies were all around him. The Lord heard his cry so that his enemies were destroyed. Thus all the countries came to know about his fighting strength for the Lord, as a devoted follower of the Mighty one.

Abraham (Sir 44:19-44:21)

“Abraham was the great father

Of a multitude of nations.

No one has been found

Like him in glory.

He kept the law

Of the Most High.

He entered into

A covenant with him.

He certified the covenant

In his flesh.

When he was tested,

He was found faithful.

Therefore the Lord assured him

With an oath.

The nations would be blessed

Through his offspring.

He would make them

As numerous as

The dust of the earth.

He would exalt his posterity

Like the stars.

He would give them

An inheritance

From sea to sea,

From the Euphrates River

To the ends of the earth.”

It is obvious why Abraham should show up as one of the famous holy men as indicated in the stories of Genesis, chapters 12-25. Abraham was considered to be the father of many nations, not just Israel. His glory was beyond anyone else. He kept the law of the Most High God, although it was not written anywhere. There is no mention of Yahweh. However Abraham entered into a covenant with the Most High God that was sealed with his flesh, the circumcision of the foreskin of his penis. Then there was his test about obeying God, when he was asked to kill his son. Abraham proved faithful to God. Thus the Lord, or Yahweh, assured him with an oath that he would have many blessed descendants as numerous as the dust on the earth. He also promised them an inheritance of the land from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea to the ends of the earth. Wow! This was a big chunk of land.

The rainbow (Sir 43:11-43:12)

“Look at the rainbow!

Praise him

Who made it!

It is exceedingly beautiful

In its brightness.

It encircles the sky

With its glorious arc.

The hands of the Most High

Have stretched it out.”

Sirach now points out the beauty of the rainbow, after a rainfall. He wants us to look at it. He wants us think about who made it, since it is exceeding beautiful and bright. The half circle arc seems to go into the sky. If you were in Ireland you might go look for some gold at the end of the rainbow. There have been popular songs about rainbows. Sirach indicates that the hands of the Most High God have stretched it out. In fact, it was considered a sign of the covenant between Yahweh and Noah, after the flood in Genesis, chapter 9, but that is not mentioned here. Neither is there any indication of the various colors that reflect the sun’s rays through the rain clouds that has become a symbol of diversity.