“Do not try to prove your strength
By drinking wine.
Wine has destroyed many people.
As the furnace tests
The work of the smith,
So wine tests hearts
When the insolent quarrel.
Wine is very life to human beings,
If you drink it in moderation.
What is life to one
Who is without wine?
It has been created
To make people happy.
Wine drunk at the proper time,
Is rejoicing to the heart.
Wine drunk in moderation
Brings gladness to the soul.
Wine drunk to excess
Leads to bitterness of spirit,
Leads to quarrels,
Leads to stumbling.
The anger of a fool
To his own hurt.
It reduces his strength.
It adds wounds.
Do not reprove your neighbor
At a banquet of wine.
Do not despise him
In his merrymaking.
Speak no word of reproach to him.
Do not distress him
By making demands of him.”
Sirach warns that you should not try to show how strong you are by drinking wine since it has destroyed many people. Just as a furnace tests the iron work of a blacksmith, so too wine tests insolent people when they quarrel. However, wine does have a good purpose. It is life itself when taken in moderation. Without wine, our lives would not be happy. Wine at the proper time and in moderation rejoices and gladdens the heart and the soul. On the other hand, over indulging in wine can lead to a bitter spirit, quarrels, and stumbling around. The fool who drinks excessively increases his own anger to his own detriment. Drunkards lose their strength and sometimes get wounded. If you are at a banquet with wine, do not pick an argument with your neighbor. Do not dislike him for having a good time. Do not criticize him or ask him for anything. It is not the right time.
“A holy people,
A blameless race,
From a nation of oppressors.
She entered the soul
Of a servant of the Lord.
He withstood dread kings
With wonders and signs.”
Based on the stories in Exodus, chapters 2-12, this abbreviated history of the Israelites turns to Moses, who is called a servant of the Lord, not just a righteous man. Of course, wisdom was the one who delivered this holy, blameless (ἄμεμπτον) race or seed (σπέρμα) from its oppressors. She entered the soul (ψυχὴν) of this brave servant of the Lord (θεράποντος Κυρίου) who opposed the dreaded kings, while producing signs and wonders in Egypt.
“Do not invite death
By the error of your life.
Do not bring on destruction
By the works of your hands.
God did not make death.
He does not delight
In the death of the living.
He created all things
So that they might exist.
The generative forces of the world
There is no destructive poison in them.
The dominion of Hades is not on earth.
Righteousness is immortal.”
This author states clearly that God did not create death (θάνατον). Man has created death that leads to hell, Sheol, or Hades (Άδης). You invite death by the error of your life. You bring on destruction by your own hands. God does not delight in death. God created living things as a generative wholesome force with no destructive poison in them so that they might exist. The kingdom or dominion of Hades is not on earth. Righteousness, or those who act justly, will make you immortal (δικαιοσύνη γὰρ ἀθάνατός ἐστιν), the opposite of death, not dying. Thus this is a vague immortality, somewhat like the Greek immortality of the soul that comes from a good life.
“Wisdom is a kindly spirit.
Wisdom will not free blasphemers
From the guilt of their words. God is witness
Of their inmost feelings.
God is a true observer of their hearts.
He is a hearer of their tongues.
The Spirit of the Lord
Has filled the world.
What holds all things together
Knows what is said.
Therefore those who utter unrighteous things
Will not escape notice.
When it punishes,
Will not pass them by.
Inquiry will be made
Into the counsels of the ungodly.
A report of their words
Will come to the Lord.
It will convict them of their lawless deeds.
A jealous ear hears all things.
The sound of grumbling does not go unheard.
Beware then of useless grumbling!
Keep your tongue from slander!
No secret word is without result.
A lying mouth destroys the soul.”
Wisdom (σοφία) is a kindly or philanthropic spirit (φιλάνθρωπον πνεῦμα). There is almost equivalence between wisdom and the Spirit. The blasphemers (βλάσφημον) will not escape the guilt of their words. God is a witness (μάρτυς ὁ Θεὸς) to their innermost feelings. He knows their heart (τῆς καρδίας αὐτοῦ ἐπίσκοπος ἀληθὴς). He hears their tongues (τῆς γλώσσης ἀκουστής). The Spirit of the Lord (πνεῦμα Κυρίου) has filled the world. Thus this creative spirit knows all things. Thus those who utter unrighteous things will not escape notice. A just punishment will not pass them by. An inquiry will be made and a report will be given to the Lord (Κΰριον). They will be convicted of their evil and lawless deeds. A jealous ear hears all things. Thus the Lord hears this useless grumbling. You should keep your tongue from slandering. Even secret words are known, so that a lying mouth destroys the soul (ψυχήν).
“Like a bird that strays from its nest,
Is one who strays from home.
Perfume makes the heart glad.
Incense makes the heart glad.
But the soul is torn by trouble.
Do not forsake your friend!
Do not forsake the friend of your parents!
Do not go to the house of your kindred
In the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is nearby
Than kindred who are far away.”
Good friends are important. You should not stray from home just as a bird does not leave its nest. Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but trouble tears apart the soul. Do not give up on your friends or the friends of your parents. If something goes wrong, do not go to your far away family relatives but to your nearby friends and neighbors.
“The law of Yahweh is perfect.
It revives the soul.
The decrees of Yahweh are sure.
They make wise the simple.
The precepts of Yahweh are right.
They rejoice the heart.
The commandment of Yahweh is clear.
It enlightens the eyes.
The fear of Yahweh is pure.
It endures forever.
The ordinances of Yahweh are true.
They are righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold.
They are even much finer than gold.
They are sweeter also than honey.
They are sweeter than the drippings of the honeycomb.”
In order to counteract the preceding almost pagan eulogy to the sun, the Mosaic law of Yahweh gets special mention. It is the law of Yahweh, the decrees of Yahweh, the precepts of Yahweh, the commandments of Yahweh, the ordinances of Yahweh. There can be no mistake. This is the law of Yahweh that begins with the fear of Yahweh. They revive the soul. They make the simple wise. They rejoice the heart. They enlighten the eyes. They set righteous and endure forever. They are finer than gold and sweeter than honey. Clearly the law of Yahweh is central, not the sun.