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Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach: Chapter 39

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1

He seeks out the wisdom of all the ancients, and is concerned with prophecies; 2 he preserves the sayings of the famous and penetrates the subtleties of parables; 3 he seeks out the hidden meanings of proverbs and is at home with the obscurities of parables. 4 He serves among the great and appears before rulers; he travels in foreign lands and learns what is good and evil in the human lot. 5 He sets his heart to rise early to seek the Lord who made him, and to petition the Most High; he opens his mouth in prayer and asks pardon for his sins.

6

If the great Lord is willing, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; he will pour forth words of wisdom of his own and give thanks to the Lord in prayer. 7 The Lord e Heb: Gk And let them know you will direct his counsel and knowledge, as he meditates on his mysteries. 8 He will show the wisdom of what he has learned, and will glory in the law of the Lord's covenant. 9 Many will praise his understanding; it will never be blotted out. His memory will not disappear, and his name will live through all generations. 10 Nations will speak of his wisdom, and the congregation will proclaim his praise. 11 If he lives long, he will leave a name greater than a thousand, and if he goes to rest, it is enough f Other ancient authorities read remember your oath for him.

12

I have more on my mind to express; I am full like the full moon. 13 Listen to me, my faithful children, and blossom like a rose growing by a stream of water. 14 Send out fragrance like incense, and put forth blossoms like a lily. Scatter the fragrance, and sing a hymn of praise; bless the Lord for all his works. 15 Ascribe majesty to his name and give thanks to him with praise, with songs on your lips, and with harps; this is what you shall say in thanksgiving:

16

“All the works of the Lord are very good, and whatever he commands will be done at the appointed time. 17 No one can say, ‘What is this?’ or ‘Why is that?’— for at the appointed time all such questions will be answered. At his word the waters stood in a heap, and the reservoirs of water at the word of his mouth. 18 When he commands, his every purpose is fulfilled, and none can limit his saving power. 19 The works of all are before him, and nothing can be hidden from his eyes. 20 From the beginning to the end of time he can see everything, and nothing is too marvelous for him. 21 No one can say, ‘What is this?’ or ‘Why is that?’— for everything has been created for its own purpose.

22

“His blessing covers the dry land like a river, and drenches it like a flood. 23 But his wrath drives out the nations, as when he turned a watered land into salt. 24 To the faithful his ways are straight, but full of pitfalls for the wicked. 25 From the beginning good things were created for the good, but for sinners good things and bad. a Owing to a dislocation in the Greek Mss of Sirach, the verse numbers 14 and 15 are not used in chapter 36, though no text is missing. 26 The basic necessities of human life are water and fire and iron and salt and wheat flour and milk and honey, the blood of the grape and oil and clothing. 27 All these are good for the godly, but for sinners they turn into evils.

28

“There are winds created for vengeance, and in their anger they can dislodge mountains; b Other ancient authorities read you have likened to on the day of reckoning they will pour out their strength and calm the anger of their Maker. 29 Fire and hail and famine and pestilence, all these have been created for vengeance; 30 the fangs of wild animals and scorpions and vipers, and the sword that punishes the ungodly with destruction. 31 They take delight in doing his bidding, always ready for his service on earth; and when their time comes they never disobey his command.”

32

So from the beginning I have been convinced of all this and have thought it out and left it in writing: 33 All the works of the Lord are good, and he will supply every need in its time. 34 No one can say, “This is not as good as that,” for everything proves good in its appointed time. 35 So now sing praise with all your heart and voice, and bless the name of the Lord.

Notes:

c Heb: Gk And let them know you

d Other ancient authorities read remember your oath

e Owing to a dislocation in the Greek Mss of Sirach, the verse numbers 14 and 15 are not used in chapter 36, though no text is missing.

f Other ancient authorities read you have likened to

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

38.1–15 : Concerning physicians.

5 :

Water made sweet, see Ex 15.23–25 .

9–15 :

Ben Sira upholds the traditional view that illness results from sin (cf. Deut 28.21–22,27–28; Prov 3.7–8 ). Only after prayer and sacrifice (see Lev 2.1–3 ), therefore, should the ill person give the physician his place (cf. 2 Chr 16.12 ).

38.34b–39.11 : Praise of the scribe.

The highest vocation is that of the scribe, who is concerned with the law, wisdom (i.e., the Writings), and prophecies; this reflects the threefold division of the Hebrew Bible ( 39.1–3 ; see also the Prologue by Ben Sira's grandson).

34b :

Cf. Ezra 7.6,10 .

39.2–3 :

Cf. Prov 1.5–6; 25.1 .

9 :

His memory and name will live, cf. 37.26; 44.10–15 .

11 :

Greater than a thousand, cf. Job 9.3; 33.23; Eccl 7.28 .

39.12–35 : A hymn of praise

about the goodness and purposefulness of creation (vv. 16,21,33–35; cf. 16.26–29 ). Both good and bad things are used by God for the divine purpose (vv. 25–31; cf. 33.7–15 ).

16 :

Very good, Gen 1.4,10,12,18,21,25,31 .

17 :

The appointed time, cf. vv. 16,34; Eccl 3.11 . Waters stood in a heap, cf. Gen 1.9–10; Ex 15.8 .

23 :

He turned a watered land into salt; cf. Gen 19.24–26; Ps 107.34 .

26 :

The basic necessities, cf. 29.21 .

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