The beauty and aroma of wisdom (Sir 24:15-24:17)

“‘Like cassia,

Like camel’s thorn,

I gave forth perfume.

I spread my fragrance,

Like choice myrrh,

Like galbanum,

Like onycha,

Like stacte,

Like the odor of incense in the tabernacle.

Like a terebinth,

I spread out my branches.

My branches are glorious.

My branches are graceful.

Like the vine

I bud forth delights.

My blossoms become glorious fruit.

My blossoms become abundant fruit.”

Sirach continued with his personification of wisdom. Here wisdom compares herself to various fragrances and fruit trees. First, she uses the fragrances of cassia, a kind of cinnamon bark, and camel’s thorn, a sweet coffee smell. Then there are fragrances that came from the gum resins of trees that became the incense used in the Temple, myrrh, galbanum, onycha, and stacte. Thus wisdom smelt like the incense used in the Jerusalem Temple tabernacle. Just as the terebinth tree spread its branches, so too, wisdom seemed to have wide branches. She was also like vines and blossoms on a fruit tree. Wisdom was then beautiful to look at and wonderful to smell.

The difference between the rich and the humble (Sir 13:21-13:24)

“When the rich person totters,

He is supported by friends.

But when a humble person falls,

He is pushed away

Even by friends.

If the rich person slips,

Many come to his rescue.

If he speaks unseemly words,

They justify him.

If the humble person slips,

They even criticize him.

If he talks sense,

He is not given a hearing.

When the rich person speaks,

All are silent.

They extol to the clouds

What he says.

When the poor person speaks,

They say.

‘Who is this fellow?’

Should he stumble,

They even push him down.

Riches are good

If they are free from sin.

Poverty is evil

Only in the opinion of the ungodly.”

Sirach points out the different attitudes that we have toward the rich and the poor. We tolerate and encourage bad behavior by rich people, but we put down the good behavior of poor people. If a rich person totters a little bit, everyone will come to help him. If a humble poor person slips, his friends push him away. Everyone tries to justify the unseemly words of the rich. However, they will criticize the words of the poor, even if they make a lot of good sense. No one will listen to the poor, but everyone is silent when the rich speak. They will say how wonderful he is. On the other hand, when the poor person speaks, they will ask, who is this guy anyway. If a poor person stumbles, they will push him down further. The only way that rich can be good, is if they are free from sin. In fact, the ungodly think that poverty is evil. It is a tough life if you are poor, but everyone will cover your mistakes if you are rich, because you have “affluenza”.

Do not judge on appearances (Sir 11:2-11:4)

“Do not praise individuals

For their good looks!

Do not loathe anyone

Because of appearance alone.

The bee is small

Among flying creatures.

But what it produces

Is the best of sweet things.

Do not boast

About wearing fine clothes!

Do not exalt yourself

When you are honored.

The works of the Lord

Are wonderful.

His works

Are concealed from humankind.”

You should not praise people because of their good looks. On the other hand, you should not hate anyone based on their appearances alone. Take the small bee, for example. This small flying creature produces honey, the sweetest of all things. There was a premium on honey in ancient times. You should not boast about wearing fine clothes. Do not exalt yourself when you are honored. The works of the Lord are wonderful, but he has concealed them from most humans.

Understanding (Prov 30:18-30:19)

“Three things are too wonderful for me.

Four things I do not understand.

They are

The way of an eagle in the sky,

The way of a serpent on a rock,

The way of a ship on the high seas,

And the way of a man with a girl.”

Once again we have the numeric formula of 3 and 4. The 4 things that he cannot understand, even though they are wonderful, are: 1) a flying eagle, 2) a serpent on a rock, 3) a ship sailing on the high seas, and 4) the sexual encounter of a man and a girl.

Parental wisdom teaching (Prov 4:1-4:9)

“Children!

Listen to a father’s instruction!

Be attentive!

Thus you may gain insight into truth.

I give you good precepts.

Do not forsake my teaching.

When I was a son with my father,

I was tender.

I was my mother’s favorite.

He taught me.

He said to me.

‘Let your heart hold fast my words.

Keep my commandments.

Thus you will live.

Get wisdom!

Get insight!

Do not forget!

Do not turn away from the words of my mouth!

Do not forsake her!

She will keep you.

Love her!

Thus she will guard you.

The beginning of wisdom is this.

Get wisdom!

Whatever else you get,

Get insight!

Prize her highly!

Thus she will exalt you.

She will honor you

If you embrace her.

She will place on your head

A fair garland.

She will bestow on you

A beautiful crown.’”

Once again, we have paternal instruction. This father wanted his children to be attentive so that they could gain some insight. He wanted them not to forget his good teaching, since he was only doing what his father had done to him. He had been the favorite of his mother. He believed that he should follow his father’s words and commands. If they did the same, they would have a good life. In a tautology, he said that the beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom. Wow! They were to get wisdom and insight, first and foremost. They were not to forsake lady wisdom. If they kept her, she would keep them. If they loved wisdom, she would protect them. If they prized her, she would exalt them. If they embraced her, she would honor them. Thus they would have a wonderful Roman garland and a beautiful crown.

Steady my steps (Ps 119:129-119:136)

Phe

“Your decrees are wonderful.

Therefore my soul keeps them.

The unfolding of your words gives light.

It imparts understanding to the simple.

With open mouth I pant.

Because I long for your commandments.

Turn to me!

Be gracious to me!

It is your custom toward those who love your name.

Keep my steps steady

According to your promise!

Never let iniquity have dominion over me!

Redeem me from human oppression!

Thus I may keep your precepts.

Make your face shine upon your servant.

Teach me your statutes!

My eyes shed streams of tears.

Because your law is not kept.”

The psalmist wanted to remain steady in his steps that were following the law, since Yahweh’s decrees are wonderful. The unfolding of his words gives light so that he has a simple understanding. He longed and panted for Yahweh’s commandments. He wanted Yahweh to be gracious to him because Yahweh loved him. He wanted his steps kept steady just as Yahweh had promised. He did not want iniquity to have dominion over him. He wanted to be redeemed from human oppression. He would then be able to keep the precepts of Yahweh because his face shines on him. He wanted to learn the statutes. He cried when he learned that some people did not keep the law. So ends this section on the seventeenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Phe.

Job thought that he was on top of the world (Job 29:18-29:20)

“Then I thought.

‘I shall die in my nest.

I shall multiply my days like the phoenix sand.

My roots spread out to the waters.

The dew was all night on my branches.

My glory was fresh with me.

My bow was ever new in my hand.’

Everything was wonderful for Job. He expected to die in his bed after a long life. His roots had water to make them grow. The nightly dew covered the branches of his trees. His glory was with him. He had a new bow practically every day for his arrows. Why worry? Everything was great.

The dialogue of Yahweh and Satan (Job 1:6-1:12)

“One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before Yahweh. Satan also came among them. Yahweh said to Satan.

‘Where have you come from?’

Satan answered Yahweh.

‘From going to and fro on the earth,

I am walking up and down on it.’

Yahweh said to Satan.

‘Have you considered my servant Job?

There is no one like him on the earth.

He is a blameless and upright man.

He fears God.

He turns away from evil.’

Then Satan answered Yahweh.

‘Does Job fear God for nothing?

Have you not put a fence around him?

Have you not put a fence around his house and all that he has?

The fence is on every side.

You have blessed the work of his hands.

His possessions have increased in the land.

But stretch out your hand now.

Touch all that he has.

He will curse you to your face.’

Yahweh said to Satan.

‘Very well,

All that he has is in your power.

Only do not stretch out your hand against him!’

Satan then went out from the presence of Yahweh.”

Now we have a divine perspective with the 2 main protagonists of the story in a heavenly, other world since Job was not aware of this conversation. Yahweh was the Jewish Israelite God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Satan was the adversary or the powerful evil one, who later became the personification of evil or the devil, just like the serpent in Genesis, chapter 3. The assumption is that everyone knew who they were. Notice that Yahweh and Satan were on good speaking terms with each other. The heavenly beings, or sons of God, are some sort of council with God that is often referred to as the angels of God or some sort of lesser gods, subordinate to the main God. Satan seems to be one of these heavenly subordinate beings or angels. However, he seems more involved with earth. Yahweh started the conversation by asking Satan where he was from. He responded that he had been walking around earth. Yahweh then said that he must have seen his wonderful blameless and upright servant Job, who did no evil. Satan responded that Yahweh had put a fence or hedge all around him. He had blessed his work so that everything increased for him. Satan wanted Yahweh to stretch out his hand and see if he would curse Yahweh. Yahweh said that he would not do that, but he would allow Satan to do whatever he wanted to Job, except personally harm him. So the story begins.

The prayer of Mordecai to God the creator (Greek text only)

“Then Mordecai prayed to the Lord. He called on the Lord to remember all his works. He said.

‘O Lord, Lord,

You rule as King over all things.

The universe is in your power.

There is no one who can oppose you.

It is your will to save Israel.

You have made heaven and earth.

You have made every wonderful thing under heaven.

You are Lord of all.

There is no one who can resist you.

You are the Lord.’”

Once again, these next sections of Mordecai’s prayer are only in the Greek text and not in the Hebrew text at all. Mordecai proclaimed that the Lord was the ruler of all things. The universe was in his power. No one could oppose God. If he wanted to save Israel he could. He has made heaven and earth and everything that is wonderful. He is the lord of all things. No one can resist this Lord.

Ezra explains the situation today (Neh 9:32-9:37)

“Now therefore, our God,

The great and mighty and awesome God,

You keep the covenant and steadfast love.

Do not treat lightly all the hardship that has come upon us,

Upon our kings, our officials, our priests, our prophets,

Our ancestors, and all your people,

Since the time of the kings of Assyria until today.

You have been just in all that has come upon us.

You have dealt faithfully.

We have acted wickedly.

Our kings, our officials, our priests, and our ancestors

Have not kept your law.

They have not heeded your commandments.

They have not heeded the warnings that you gave them.

Even in their kingdom,

In the great goodness that you bestowed upon them,

In the large and rich land that you set before them,

They did not serve you.

They did not turn from their wicked works.

Here we are slaves to this day.

Slaves in the land that you gave to our ancestors

To enjoy its fruit and its good gifts.

Its rich yield goes to the kings,

The kings you have over us because of our sins.

They have power also over our bodies

And over our livestock at their pleasure.

We are in great distress!”

Now Ezra’s prayer gets to the current situation. The wonderful mighty God has been good to us. However, we, our kings, officials, priests, prophets, and all our people have been in distress since the Assyrian kings took over our land. God was just and acted faithfully. However, we were the wicked sinners because we did not follow the commandments, all of us. Even when things were good with our own kingdom, we still kept our wicked ways. We did not follow all the commandments. Now we end up as slaves in our own country. We have to pay the king with our work. The kings have power over us. “We are in great distress!”