The wise ones (Sir 20:27-20:31)

“The wise person

Advances himself

By his words.

Whoever is sensible

Will please the great men.

Whoever cultivates the soil

Will heap up their harvest.

Whoever pleases the great men

Will atone for injustice.

Favors blind the eyes of the wise.

Gifts blind the eyes of the wise.

Like a muzzle on the mouth,

They stop reproofs.

What is the value

Of hidden wisdom?

What is the value

Of an unseen treasure?

What value is either of them?

Better are those

Who hide their folly

Than those

Who hide their wisdom.”

Sirach gives us some indications about the wise people. They advance themselves by their words. They are sensible and thus please great men. They know how to cultivate the soil to get a great harvest. They atone for injustice. However, there is a down side. They should not be blinded by gifts and favors. Thus they might end up putting a muzzle on so that they stop criticizing the people who are giving these presents and favors. There is no value to hidden wisdom or unseen treasure. The foolish should hide their foolishness rather than the wise hide their wisdom.

Faithful friends (Sir 6:14-6:17)

“Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter.

Whoever finds a faithful friend,

Has found a treasure.

There is nothing so precious

As a faithful friend.

Faithful friends are beyond price.

No amount can balance their worth.

Faithful friends are life saving medicine.

Those who fear the Lord

Will find them.

Whoever fears the Lord

Directs their friendship aright.

As they are,

So are their neighbors also.”

Now we see the right kind of friends, faithful friends who are like a sturdy shelter. If you find a faithful friend, it is like a precious treasure beyond price and value. They are like life saving medicines. Those who fear the Lord will find these faithful friends. They will be faithful friends with their neighbors also.

Qoheleth (Eccl 12:9-12:10)

“Besides being wise,

Qoheleth also taught the people knowledge.

He weighed many proverbs.

He studied many proverbs.

He arranged many proverbs.

Qoheleth sought to find pleasing words.

He wrote words of truth plainly.”

Now we have a description, eulogy, or explanation of Qoheleth by another author in this epilogue. Qoheleth was wise. He taught the people knowledge. He studied and arranged many of the proverbs in this book. He weighted their value. But as we have seen most were useless vanity. He wanted to find pleasing words as he had a good literary Hebrew style. He spoke plain truth. There was nothing fancy about his work.

Pass on wisdom (Eccl 7:8-7:12)

“Better is the end of a thing

Than its beginning.

The patient in spirit are better

Than the proud in spirit.

Be not quick to anger!

Anger lodges in the bosom of fools.

Do not say.

‘Why were the former days

Better than these?’

It is not from wisdom

That you ask this.

Wisdom is good

With an inheritance.

Wisdom is an advantage

To those who see the sun.

The protection of wisdom is

Like the protection of money.

The advantage of knowledge is

That wisdom gives life

To the one who possesses it.”

Following up on the preceding dichotomies, Qoheleth then went on to speak about the value of wisdom. The end is better than its beginning. The patient in spirit are better than the proud in spirit. Do not be quick to anger because that is the way of fools. Wise people do not talk about the good old days. You should try to hand on wisdom as an inheritance, just like you might want to hand on a financial inheritance. In fact, knowledge and wisdom give life to the one who possesses it.

The vanity of hard work (Eccl 2:18-2:23)

“I hated all my toil

In which I had toiled under the sun.

I must leave it to

Those who will come after me.

Who knows

Whether they will be a wise or foolish?

Yet they will be

Master of all for which I toiled.

I used my wisdom under the sun.

This also is vanity.

So I turned about.

I gave my heart up to despair

Concerning all the toil of

My labors under the sun.

Sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom,

Toiled with knowledge,

Toiled with skill,

Must leave all to be enjoyed by another

Who did not toil for it.

This also is vanity.

This is a great evil.

What do mortals get from all the toil?

What do mortals gat from the strain

With which they toil under the sun?

All their days are full of pain.

Their work is a vexation.

Even at night

Their minds do not rest.

This also is vanity.”

Now Qoheleth addressed the problem of hard work. What is its value? He had been a hard working wise man, but he would have to leave all his work to those who would come after him. There was no telling if they would be wise or foolish, but still they would be in charge of all his things. He then realized that with all his wisdom under the sun, everything that he had accomplished was in vain. He then fell into despair, much like Job. He would not enjoy the fruit of his hard work. He had worked with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, but he had to leave the results of his work to be enjoyed by those who would not work hard. This is the problem with parents who work hard to see their children succeed, only to have them dissipate their life away. This painful useless work is a great evil. He wanted to know if there was a reward for this hard work. This work was nothing but a painful troubling vexation that kept him from sleeping at night. Hard work was useless, in vain, vanity itself. This is a very strong indictment against hard work.

The wicked (Prov 14:9-14:13)

“Fools mock at the guilt offering.

But the upright enjoy God’s favor.

The heart knows its own bitterness.

No stranger shares its joy.

The house of the wicked will be destroyed.

But the tent of the upright will flourish.

There is a way that seems right to a person.

But its end is the way to death.

Even in laughter

The heart is sad.

The end of joy is grief.”

Although the Hebrew text is difficult, it appears that fools do not see any value in the guilt offering. God scorns the wicked people, but he enjoys the upright ones. The heart knows the bitterness that no stranger can share in. The house of the wicked person will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will be fine. Sometimes we think that we are on the right path but it may actually lead to death. Even when some people laugh, their heart is sad, since the end of their joy leads to grief.

The good wife (Prov 12:4-12:4)

“A good wife is the crown of her husband.

But she who brings shame is

Like rottenness in his bones.”

The woman is defined in her relationship to her husband. Being a good wife meant that you were the crown of your husband. Generally women were compared to their husbands for value. The opposite is also true. If she brought shame to herself, it also brought shame to her husband, since he would endure the rottenness of the bad deed in his bones.

Lady wisdom speaks (Prov 8:1-8:11)

“Does not wisdom call?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights,

Beside the way,

At the crossroads,

She takes her stand.

Beside the gates

In front of the town,

At the entrance of the portals,

She cries out.

‘To you!

O people!

I call!

My cry is to all that live.

O simple ones!

Learn prudence!

Acquire intelligence!

You who lack it!

Hear!

I will speak noble things,

From my lips

Will come what is right.

My mouth will utter truth.

Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are righteous.

There is nothing twisted or crooked in them.

They are all straight to one who understands.

They are right to those who find knowledge.

Take my instruction instead of silver.

Take my knowledge rather than choice gold.

Wisdom is better than jewels.

All that you may desire cannot compare with her.’”

Lady wisdom is calling. Unlike the prostitute or adulterous woman, you should listen to her. Lady wisdom is all over the place. She raises her voice at the heights, at the crossroads, beside the town gates, and at the town entrance. There is no reason to miss her.   Her cry is to all who live, not a particular person. The simpletons were to learn prudence and intelligence. She was going to speak noble things that were right and true. There would be no wickedness, but only righteousness. Nothing is crooked, since everything is straight. You should value her instructions and knowledge more than silver, gold, or jewels. Nothing can compare with lady wisdom.

Title (Prov 1:1-1:1)

“These are

The proverbs of Solomon,

Son of David,

The King of Israel.”

This introduction title to proverbs was a later addition to the main sections on the Proverbs of Solomon. However, it sets the tone for the whole work which is really poetic wisdom. This opening introduction clearly places Solomon, the Son of David, and King of Israel as the author as indicated in the stories about Solomon in 1 Kings, chapters 1-11. This adds value and prestige to these proverbs.

The great fraternal life (Ps 133:1-133:3)

A song of ascents.

“How very good it is!

How pleasant it is!

Kindred brothers live together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head.

It runs down upon the beard.

It runs down on the beard of Aaron.

It runs down over the collar of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon.

It falls on the mountains of Zion.

For there Yahweh has commanded his blessing,

Life forevermore.”

Psalm 133 is another very short psalm in this series of pilgrimage songs on the ascent to Jerusalem. This wisdom song emphasizes the value of brothers living together in unity. This was like the holy oil that one puts on one’s head. As in the ceremony for the consecration of the Levitical priests, it runs down as on the beard of Aaron and over the collar of his robes. This good fraternal life is like the dew from the mountains of Hermon in Syria. Here the dew falls on Mount Zion. From Mount Zion, Yahweh gives his blessings of life forever. Thus this very short psalm concludes with everlasting life.