The Lord’s response through Daniel (Dan 13:44-13:46)

“The Lord heard

Susanna’s cry.

Just as she was being led off

To execution,

God stirred up

The Holy Spirit

Of a young lad

Named Daniel.

He shouted

With a loud voice.

‘I want no part

In shedding

That woman’s blood.’”

The Lord heard the prayer cry of Susanna. Just as she was being led to her execution, God stirred up the Holy Spirit in a young man, Daniel. This phrase indicates that this probably belongs as the beginning of this book and not at the end since Daniel is called young, not old. The Holy Spirit appears in prophets quite often. Daniel then shouted out in a loud voice that he wanted no part in the shedding of this woman’s blood.

Daniel’s dream (Dan 7:1-7:1)

“In the first year

Of King Belshazzar,

King of Babylon,

Daniel

Had a dream.

He had visions

In his head

As he lay in his bed.

Then he wrote down

The dream.”

The second half of this book has a series of visions by Daniel. This is one of Daniel’s own dreams, even though there have many other dreams mentioned already. This dream seemed parallel to the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2. This took place during the first year of King Belshazzar. That would put this dream around 554 BCE, the first year that this king was the viceroy with his father, King Nabonidus (556-539 BCE). Strangely enough, there is hardly any mention of King Nabonidus, the father of King Belshazzar, in this Book of Daniel. This time, Daniel had this vision at night as was laying in his bed. The difference, of course, is that he wrote the dream down.

The names of the Israelite students (Dan 1:6-1:7)

“Among those chosen were

Daniel,

Hananiah,

Mishael,

Azariah,

From the tribe of Judah.

The palace master

Gave them other names.

Daniel,

He called Belteshazzar.

Hananiah,

He called Shadrach.

Mishael,

He called Meshach.

Azariah

He called Abednego.”

The names of the 4 Israelite students from the tribe of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Obviously, the emphasis will be on Daniel, the name of this book. However, Ashpenaz, the chief of the palace, gave them other names that were more Babylonian, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There was an American song written about the 3 young men with Daniel, called “Shadrach,” and later recorded by Louis Armstrong and Brook Benton.  This was another common practice to help integrate them into the Chaldean Babylonian culture.

Read the scroll (Bar 1:14-1:14)

“You shall read aloud

This scroll

That we are sending you,

To make

Your confession

In the house

Of the Lord,

On the days

Of the festivals,

At the appointed seasons.”

They were to read out loud this book or scroll that Baruch was sending to the people in Jerusalem. Baruch seems to assume that there is some sort of customary life in Jerusalem. He wanted them to make a confession of their sins in the house of the Lord on the normal festival days. The problem, of course, is that the temple has been destroyed. Who was going to lead these normal appointed festivals? Apparently, somebody was there.

The end of happiness (Jer 25:10-25:13)

“‘I will banish from them

The voice of mirth,

The sound of gladness,

The voice of the bridegroom,

The voice of the bride,

The sound of the millstones,

The light of the lamp.

This whole land shall become

A ruin,

A waste.

These nations

Shall serve the king of Babylon

Seventy years.

Then after seventy years are completed,

I will punish the king of Babylon

With that nation,

The land of the Chaldeans,

For their iniquity.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Make the land

An everlasting waste!

I will bring upon that land

All the words

That I have uttered against it,

Everything written in this book.’”

This section begins with a reference to what Jeremiah had said in chapters 7 and 16. In the cities of Judah and on the streets of Jerusalem, there would be no longer the voice of mirth or gladness. In fact, the voice of the bride and bridegroom would be banished, also hinting at no more weddings. There would be no more millstones or light. The land would become a ruined wasteland. The Babylonian king would rule them for 70 years. However, after 70 years, Yahweh would punish Babylon and the Chaldeans, by making them an everlasting wasteland because of their iniquity. Everything that was written in this book of Jeremiah would come to pass upon them.

 

The call of Isaiah in 742 BCE (Isa 6:1-6:1)

“In the year

That King Uzziah died,

I saw Yahweh

Sitting on a throne,

High and lofty.”

Now we have the call of Isaiah. Should this not have been at the beginning of this book? Here it is found with a series of oracles about the war with the Assyrians. King Uzziah, also known as King Azariah, had been King of Judah from around 792-742 BCE, about 50 years. He ruled first with his father King Joash and then with his son King Jotham, when he was struck with leprosy, as noted in 2 Kings, chapter 15, and 2 Chronicles, chapter 26. In this vision, Isaiah saw Yahweh sitting on his high lofty throne in the Temple in the year aht King Uzziah had died, 742 BCE.

Conclusion (Sir 50:27-50:29)

“I have written

In this book about

Instruction in understanding.

I have written about knowledge.

I am

Jesus son of Eleazar,

Son of Sirach,

Of Jerusalem.

My mind poured forth wisdom.

Happy are those

Who concerns themselves

With these things.

Those who lay them to heart

Will become wise.

If they put them into practice,

They will be equal to anything.

The fear of the Lord is their path.”

This appears to be the original ending of this book as Jesus son of Eleazar, son of Sirach, explains who he is and why he wrote this book. He wrote this work to instruct people in understanding. He wanted to give them more knowledge. He has poured out his wisdom. Now he would be happy if anyone concerned themselves about these things. Let them take these things to heart and become wise also. So much the better, if they put these things into practice. If they do, the fear of the Lord will be their path.

King Josiah (Sir 49:1-49:3)

“The memory of King Josiah is

Like a blending of incense.

This was prepared

By the skilful art of the perfumer.

His memory is

As sweet as honey

To every mouth.

His memory is

Like music

At a banquet of wine.

He did what was right

By reforming the people.

He removed the wicked abominations.

He kept his heart

On the Lord.

In lawless times,

He made

Godliness prevail.”

Now Sirach takes on the memory of the long reign of Judah King Josiah (640-609 BCE) as found in 2 Kings, chapters 22-23, and 2 Chronicles, chapters 34-35. He was a substantial king for over 30 years, so his impact was great. His memory was like the beautiful aroma of incense and sweeter than honey. His memory was like music at a wine banquet because he did what was right. He refurnished the Jerusalem Temple by collecting money to repair it. During this remodeling, they discovered the book of the law, probably Deuteronomy. After reading this book, he called for a religious reform in Judah, apparently reinstating monotheism. He then set out to destroy all the other religious shrines or wicked abominations that were not in Jerusalem. He kept his heart fixed on the Lord. He changed the lawless times into the times of godliness. What a great king!

Travel to Egypt (Sir 0:27-0:36)

“When I came to Egypt

In the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes,

I stayed for some time.

I found an opportunity for no little instruction.

It seemed highly necessary

That I should myself

Devote some diligence,

Devote some labor to the translation of this book.

During that time,

I applied my skill

Day and night.

Thus I was able to complete this translation.

I was able to publish the book

For those living abroad

Who wished to gain learning.

That is those

Disposed to live according to the Law.”

Now we learn about this translator.   He states that he came to Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes. This must mean the Egyptian King Ptolemy VIII, Euergetes. He ascended the throne in the year 170 BCE, together with his brother Philometor, but he soon became sole ruler from 146 to 117 BCE. Thus this translator must have gone to Egypt in 132 BCE, 38 years after 170 BCE. So now we have an exact date. He stayed there for some time. There he labored to translate this book, day and night. He finally completed his translations and published this book as an aid for anyone seeking to live according to the Law.

The providential meaning of the persecution (2 Macc 6:12-6:17)

“Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities. You ought to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. In fact, it is a sign of great kindness not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately. In the case of the other nations, the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins. However, he does not deal in this way with us. So that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height, he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people. Let what we have said serve as a reminder. We must go on briefly with the story.”

Here is a little editorial note of the biblical writer. In fact, he used the first person singular “I.” He did not want the reader to be depressed by these incidents. These punishments came to the Jewish people in order to discipline them, not to destroy them. With other nations, the Lord waited until they were totally sinful before he punished them. God’s mercy was always with the Jews, even when they were sinful. Although he disciplines the Jews, he never abandons them. Now that the author has put in this little reminder, he was going to continue on with the story. This is a rare look at the perspective of this biblical author. The Jews were unique in that God was merciful, no matter what.