Yahweh will not forget Zion (Isa 49:14-49:16)

“But Zion said.

‘Yahweh has forsaken me.

My Lord has forgotten me.’

‘Can a woman forget her nursing child?

Can she show no compassion

For the child of her womb?

Even these may forget.

Yet I will not forget you.

See!

I have inscribed you

On the palms of my hands.

Your walls are continually before me.’”

Second Isaiah has Zion complain that Yahweh, the Lord, had forgotten and forsaken them. Yahweh, however, responded very forcefully. How could a woman forget her nursing child? How could anyone forget what came out of her womb? Even if these women would forget, Yahweh would never forget about the Israelites, since he had their names inscribed on the palms of his hands like a tattoo. This was an anthropomorphic attempt to show that Yahweh really cared for them, since their walls were always before him.

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Judges (Sir 46:11-46:12)

“The judges also,

With their respective names,

Were holy famous men.

Their hearts did not fall

Into idolatry.

They did not turn away

From the Lord.

May their memory be blessed!

May their bones send forth new life

Where they lie!

May the names of those

Who have been honored

Live again in their children!”

Sirach does not name any specific judges in his praise of these judges to whom a whole book of the Hebrew Bible describes in some detail, Judges. They did not fall into idolatry, since they did not turn away from the Lord. Their memory should be blessed. Their bones should bring life to where they have been placed. Their names should be honored, as they live again in their children. Despite this plea to honor their names, Sirach does not mention any one particular name of a judge, even though the whole institution of judges was held in high esteem.

The descendants of these famous holy men (Sir 44:10-44:15)

“But these also were godly men.

Their righteous deeds

Have not been forgotten.

Their wealth will remain

With their descendants.

Their inheritance remains

To their children’s children.

Their descendants

Stand by the covenants.

Their children also

Stand by the covenants.

Their offspring

Will continue forever.

Their glory

Will never be blotted out.

Their bodies

Are buried in peace.

Their name lives on

Generation after generation.

The assembly of people

Declares their wisdom,

The congregation

Proclaims their praise.”

Sirach points out that the righteous deeds of the godly men will not be forgotten. In fact, their family will have wealth handed from generation to generation to their children and their descendents, to their children’s children. As a result the descendant children of these men stand by the covenants with God, as if there were more than one. Their offspring will continue forever. Their memory will not be lost. Although their bodies are buried in peace, their names live on for generations to come. The assembly and the congregations of the people declare their wisdom and praise from one generation to the next.

The wisdom of the scribes (Sir 39:6-39:11)

If the great Lord is willing,

He will be filled

With the spirit of understanding.

He will pour forth

Words of wisdom.

He will give thanks

To the Lord in prayer.

The Lord will direct his counsel.

The Lord will direct his knowledge.

He will meditate on his mysteries.

He will show the wisdom

Of what he has learned.

He will glory in the law

Of the Lord’s covenant.

Many will praise

His understanding.

It will never be blotted out.

His memory will not disappear.

His name will live

Through all generations.

Nations will speak of his wisdom.

The congregation

Will proclaim his praise.

If he lives long,

He will leave a name

Greater than a thousand.

If he goes to rest,

It is enough for him.”

Sirach continues his praise for the wise scribes like himself. Always it is the will of God that brings wisdom and understanding. These scribes will speak words of wisdom and give prayerful thanks to the Lord. The Lord directs their counsel and knowledge, as they meditate on the divine mysteries. These scribes will show their wisdom by glorifying the law and the covenant. However, many will praise these scribes, since their names will not disappear or be blotted out, but remain for generations to come. Many countries and congregations will praise them also. If they live long, their names will be remembered more than 1,000 others. If they die early, that will be okay also.

Lot (Wis 10:6-10:8)

“Wisdom rescued a righteous man

When the ungodly were perishing.

He escaped the fire

That descended on the Five Cities.

Evidence of their wickedness still remains.

It is a continually smoking wasteland.

Plants bear fruit that does not ripen.

A pillar of salt is standing

As a monument to an unbelieving soul.

Because they passed wisdom by,

They not only were hindered

From recognizing the good,

But also left for mankind

A reminder of their folly.

Thus their failures could never go unnoticed.”

Next we have the story of Lot and the town of Sodom, without mentioning his name, as found in Genesis, chapter 19. Once again, it is wisdom that rescues Lot, who is described as a righteous man (δίκαιον) among ungodly men (ἀσεβῶν), from the destruction of the 5 cities (Πενταπόλεως). Only 3 cities are mentioned in the Genesis story, Sodom, Gomorrah, and Zoar, but their names are not here. However, the Genesis story says that the cities of the valley were destroyed. This became a smoking wasteland so that plants did not ripen in this valley, probably someplace near the Dead Sea. Then there is famous story of the unbelieving wife of Lot who turned into a pillar of salt. So you can see that these stories in this abbreviated history had a big impact on the people. They were not only foolish people, but this smoking valley and salt monument remained as a reminder of their failures. They had passed on wisdom (σοφίαν) and did not recognize the good.

Tower of Babel and Abraham (Wis 10:5-10:5)

“Wisdom also,

When the nations in wicked agreement

Had been put to confusion,

Recognized the righteous man.

She preserved him

Blameless before God.

She kept him strong

In the face of his compassion

For his child.”

Here there seems to be a link with the Tower of Babel and Abraham. Once again in this abridgment of Genesis, there is a leap from chapter 11 about the Tower of Babel and Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac in chapter 22. Obviously, we then have this abbreviated history of mankind that jumps from Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, to Noah and the flood, without explicitly mentioning their names. Now the jump is from the Tower of Babel to Abraham. Here it is wisdom and not God who caused the confusion as the men were building the high tower. She also recognized and preserved Abraham as the strong righteous man who was blameless before God (ἄμεμπτον Θεῷ). Just as the idea of God dominates over wisdom, she, wisdom, is the one who had compassion for the child (τέκνου) of Abraham, Isaac.