The bad kings (Sir 49:4-49:5)

“Except for King David,

Except for King Hezekiah,

Except for King Josiah

All of them were

Great sinners.

They abandoned

The law of the Most High.

The kings of Judah

Came to an end.

They gave their power

To others.

They gave their glory

To a foreign nation.”

Sirach points out that all the kings, whether in Judah or Israel, were great sinners, except for King David, King Hezekiah, and King Josiah. But even these kings also committed some sins. The worst, of course, were the later kings, just before the exile. Somehow these bad kings were responsible for the downfall of the Israelite and Judah kingdoms because these great sinners abandoned the law of the Most High God. They lost their power and gave away their glory to foreign nations.

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Humility (Sir 10:28-10:31)

“My child!

Honor yourself with humility!

Give yourself the esteem

That you deserve!

Who will acquit

Those who condemn themselves?

Who will honor

Those who dishonor themselves?

The poor are honored

For their knowledge.

The rich are honored

For their wealth.

One honored in poverty,

How much more in wealth!

One dishonored in wealth,

How much more in poverty!”

Sirach has a strange sort of humility. You should be honored with your humility. You should have a good self esteem because you deserve it. Do not condemn or dishonor yourself. Poor people are honored with knowledge, but the rich are honored with wealth. The best would be a poor person with knowledge and wealth. The worst would be a wealthy person who becomes poor. This strange kind of humility relies on knowledge and wealth as a determining factor.

Vanity of vanities (Eccl 1:2-1:3)

“‘Vanity of vanities!’

Says Qoheleth.

‘Vanity of vanities!

All is vanity!

What do people gain

From all the toil

At which they toil

Under the sun?’”

This book starts with a poem to vanity. This is the superlative Hebrew usage of hebel. What is the worst vanity? This hebel is vapor or something unsubstantial, futile or vain. This term “vanity” occurs over 38 times here in this biblical book that shows the futility of humans. Is everything vain and futile? What is the reward for hard work? If all you do is work hard under the sun, what is your reward. This is somewhat reminiscent of Job and his laments.

The sick David (Ps 41:4-41:7)

“As for me,

I said.

‘Yahweh!

Be gracious to me!

Heal me!

I have sinned against you!’

My enemies wonder in malice.

‘When I will die?

When will my name perish?’

When they come to see me,

They utter empty words.

While their hearts gather mischief,

When they go out,

They tell it abroad.

All who hate me

Whisper together about me.

They imagine the worst for me.”

David asks Yahweh to be gracious to him. He seems to have some kind of deadly illness. David admitted that he had sinned, but he still wanted to be healed. His enemies were malicious. They wondered when he would die. They wanted to see his name forgotten. However, they did come to see him with empty words. They were mischievous as they went to those who hated him. They whispered about him as they imagined the worst for him.