THE WISDOM STORY
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Qohelthe (Ecclesiastes), Song of Songs,
Wisdom, Sirach (Eccleiasticus).
Introduction to the WISDOM STORY - Wisdom Books
The Wisdom Story is composed of the writings of the Old Testament that are primarily concerned with teaching a lesson. In a certain sense, this could apply to all the writings of the Old Testament. Everything in the Bible is intended to be read for the lessons that it teaches in reference to the daily life of the reader.
Certain writings stress the lessons to be learned far more than the story being told. These works are JOB, PSALMS, PROVERBS, QOHELETH (Ecclesiastes), SONG OF SONGS, WISDOM, & SIRACH (Eccleiasticus). We shall treat all of these writings under the heading “WISDOM STORY.” All of these works reach their final form sometime during the last two centuries before the Christian Era. They were and are widely used in the ritual and liturgical services of the Church today.
Why Do Good People Suffer and Bad People Prosper?
The story of Job is contained in chapters 1:1-2:13 and chapter 42:10-17. The chapters in between are a literary artifact to develop the point of the story.
The fundamental assumption of the writer is that nothing happens to a human being without the express wish of Yahweh. Yahweh wants what is best for human beings but there is a creature, called Satan - the name means the “Adversary,” who is always trying to work against this plan of Yahweh.
In the Job Story, Satan had been wandering around the earth looking for some mischief to set in motion. This Satan (the Adversary) is able to come into the presence of Yahweh and his whole court. On this particular day, Satan showed up.
Yahweh needled him a bit. He asked if Satan, in all his roaming about the earth, had ever seen a servant of Yahweh like to Job. Job is described as a person truly blessed in every way by Yahweh. He was very careful to avoid any evil in his own life, and to atone for any evil that might have appeared in the lives of his children.
Satan answered in a sneering fashion. “Sure, if you gave anyone all the favors and blessings you have given Job, that person will serve you perfectly. Just take away those blessings and listen to your perfect man then.”
Yahweh accepted the challenge. He agreed that everything that belonged to Job was in the power of Satan. But he was to keep his hands off Job, himself.
Then, in quick succession, one catastrophe after another came to Job’s property. The messengers were practically tripping over each other in their efforts to keep Job informed. Job’s reaction was exactly as Yahweh predicted. Job said “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return. Yahweh gave; Yahweh has taken back. Blessed be the name of Yahweh.”
Satan was again in the presence of Yahweh and his court. Yahweh needled Satan again. He stressed how well Job had weathered the problems. Satan replied, “This is all true enough but touch the man himself and you will see a different response.”
Yahweh took a bigger step. He agreed that Satan could attack the person of Job but he could not kill him.
Job contracted a terrible disease. His body was covered with sores. He went out to live in the city dump. Even his wife said, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” Job answered, “We take happiness from the hand of God. Should we not also accept sorrow?” In all this he did not utter a sinful selfish word.
Three of Job’s friends heard about the misfortunes of Job so they came to offer him sympathy and consolation. When they saw him they could hardly believe their eyes. For seven days and seven nights, they sat on the ground beside him and said never a word.
Now we skip to the end of the story and pick up the literary work in between. In the end, Job did question what this all meant. So Yahweh gave him an answer. Job admitted he should never doubt the wisdom of Yahweh.
Yahweh took a sharp blast at these three so-called friends and their false and twisted attempts to explain the workings of God. Then Yahweh restored Job to his former riches and happiness. In fact, he made him even greater. Job lived for many years and saw his children to the fourth generation.
There is no doubt that the story as it stands in this summary would be a simple fable with the moral, “The good man will win in the end.” However the purpose of the writer was not to write a simple fable. He wished to propose various aspects of this wisdom of Yahweh in his working with people. The people cannot always see the wisdom but it is there and will ultimately be seen.
The literary form that the writer used was three rounds of speeches. Job spoke first, then each of his friends spoke in turn and Job answered him. Each series treated various aspects of the question and went a bit deeper into the answers. The friends’ names were: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Eliphaz was an older man and showed some of the moderation expected of age. Bildad was a bit on the wordy side but his ideas were moderate. Zophar was a young person and had all the excitability of youth. The three friends started with the supposition that Job had committed some sin that he was not aware of and was being punished for it. They conclude he was deliberately hiding a terrible crime and was being justly punished for it.
I am not going to go through each of the speeches in these notes. I suggest that the reader pick up the Biblical copy of the writing and read it with these ideas in mind. I will pick out a few of the details.
The first speech of Job sets the literary stage for these rounds. Job was terribly troubled by all his misfortunes. He did not understand them but he was not blaming Yahweh for them or questioning his wisdom and goodness.
Eliphaz took it for granted that Job had done something that was displeasing to Yahweh. However, Job was not aware of his transgression. He needed only to admit his guilt and he would be forgiven and get back on his feet.
Job answered the accusation. He declared that he was aware of no crime. He asked Yahweh why he paid such close attention to him when he had all the other people to take care of. “After all”, said Job, “I am not that important. ”
Bildad took up the conversation. He repeated what Eliphaz had said. There was no way that Job could be innocent because Yahweh did not punish except for criminal behavior. Job had only to admit his failure and he would be forgiven and restored.
Job proclaimed his innocence again and realized that Yahweh was watching him very closely to see exactly how he would respond. Job asked again why he was allowed to live beyond his mother’s womb. If everything was to end in this disgraceful fashion, he should have been stillborn or died in the act of being born.
Zophar pushed the accusation of Job a step farther. He all but accused Job of hiding some sin deliberately. He told him to admit his failure and he could expect forgiveness and restoration.
Job was rather rough on this person. He said, “Doubtless, you are the voice of wisdom and when you die, all wisdom will cease to exist. I can think as well as you can.” Job said he understood everything that was said about Yahweh and his justice. He knew that he, as a mere man, would soon be buried only to become a handful of dust. Then he would end in Sheol where there was no communication with anyone.
Thus ended the first round of the discussion. The second round began with Eliphaz again. Job agreed he could talk just as glibly if he were in their places. But he was the one afflicted and sitting in the city dump.
In chapter 19, Job uttered his famous plea, “Pity me, pity me, you, my friends, for the hand of God has struck me. Why do you hound me down like God? Will you never have enough of my flesh? Would that these words of mine were written on some monument, engraved with an iron chisel on a rock forever! This I know that some day I will sit close to God, and from my flesh I shall look on him.”
In the final round of speeches, the friends said openly that Job had committed some deliberate crime and hidden it deep inside. He was now being punished as he deserved for the crime and the deceit. Job protested his innocence even more explicitly.
Finally, Job called on Yahweh to appear. Job would present his case and Yahweh could judge him openly before all people. He would see that Job was innocent.
Such a challenge was too daring and Yahweh could not appear to answer it even in a literary story. So Elihu, a young man, stepped up. He had been listening to the whole set of speeches. He had been seething at the things that had been said. Now he wanted to set the records straight.
His basic response was that these friends had not really met the innocence of Job. Job had been too critical of Yahweh. He could expect to understand the Wisdom of Yahweh. However, Elihu intended to give a clearer picture.
Now the stage was set and Yahweh appeared in the midst of a big storm. His opening speech was a beautiful and thorough summary of all the power and wisdom of Yahweh seen in the world about us. This speech should be read in the light of the times of the writer and then brought forward to our times with our greater understanding of the workings of nature.
Yahweh stopped and Job admitted that he had spoken foolishly and he would not speak up again.
That was not enough so Yahweh spoke again of his power and wisdom. This time Job admitted that he had been wrong in his statements. He retracted all his questions and statements, repented, and bowed in humble submission.
Then Yahweh told the three friends not to clutter up the wisdom, love and power of Yahweh with their puny minds and thinking. They were to have Job pray for them and they would be forgiven. Then Job was restored to his former self and life and lived happily for many years.
THE BOOK of PSALMS.
Folksongs to Express Simple and Complex Feelings of People
Literally, the title “Psalm” means a song that is sung to the accompaniment of the zither or some such stringed instrument. The first person in the Old Testament story who was renowned for his songs and singing was David, the young shepherd boy. He was called in frequently to play and sing for Saul in his fits of depression. David would restore the King to a settled attitude.
Note on numbering of the Psalms:
The numbering of the Psalms will vary in different Bibles depending on whether they are following the Hebrew division of the Psalms or the Latin. If you don't find what you are looking for, look one Psalm number before or one Psalm number after and it will usually be there.
Additional Information: The “Tallith” is the prayer shawl that is to be worn when the Psalms are officially sung or recited. The “Zizith” are the tassels on the shawl. The “Mezuzah” is the doorpost with the section of a Psalm on it. The people are to touch it reverently each time they enter or leave the house.
Over the centuries, more and more of these songs were written and finally they were collected into the present book. Actually, they are arranged in five different books or chapters and each Psalm is given something of a title or description. The Preface to the whole collection is Psalms 1 and 2. The first book is Psalms 3-41. The second book is Psalms 42-72. The third book is Psalms 73-89. The fourth book is Psalms 90-106. The fifth book is Psalms 107-150.
There is a collection referred to as the Seven Penitential Psalms: Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51. 102. 130 and 143.
“Hallel” is the Hebrew word for “Praise.” The Little Hallel is Psalms 113-118. The Great Hallel is Psalm 136. The Final Hallel is Psalms 146-150.
Some are called Vengeance or Cursing Psalms. These are songs that call down the vengeance of Yahweh on people for their evil deeds. They express the singer’s hunger for justice.
Psalm One has one of the most beautiful descriptions of a just or good person ever written. It says, “He is like a tree that is planted beside running water. It yields its fruit in due season and its leaves never fade. Success attends all that he does.”
Psalm 23 is often called the Good Shepherd Psalm. The Good Shepherd is the model for parents, teachers, care givers, and just about everyone who recognizes that the value of a person is measured by the services given to others.
Psalm 104 is the famous Creation Song. It is a poetic description of the universe around us. The more we learn about this universe from science, the more we can appreciate what the song has to say.
Psalm 119 is an extended praise of the Torah. Eight different words are used in each of the 22 stanzas to describe the wisdom and holiness of the Torah. The stanzas are arranged in the form of an acrostic or alphabetic song. The eight terms are: Witness, Way, Inspection, Statute, Command, Judgment, Word and Promise. These terms bring out all the meaning and value of the Torah in the lives of the people.
Term “Alleluia” means “Praise the Lord.”
One last note is important: We say or hear the word “Alleluia” frequently. This is actually two Hebrew words: “Hallelu” is the Hebrew imperative for “Praise.” “Yah” (ia) is the shortened form for the name Yahweh. So “Alleluia” means “Praise the Lord.”
The Psalms have been used in the liturgical worship of the Christian Church from the very beginning. They are beautiful poetry, music and theology. They should be read slowly and meditated on. Almost any human feeling or emotion is expressed exactly in one of these Psalms.
THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
Practical Advice - High Ideals - Intelligible Plans - Wise Words.
The Bible is a book with a long and varied history. At one time, this book was enshrined in many homes as a sort of sacred centerpiece. Family records were kept in it - such as births, deaths, weddings and other important events. Some people read a few lines each day, aloud or in private, as a sort of inspiration or thought for the day.
Even though the Bible is called “The Book,” it is different from almost all other books. It is more of a collection of writings - some very short, some fairly long. These writings are the products of people's thoughts about the events in their lives over a period of twelve or more centuries. Gradually, they were gathered together and given the Greek title “The Book.”
Much human wisdom has been gathered in these various writings. Gradually, some of this wisdom was put together in a collection called “PROVERBS.” I will cite some of these lines and point out how appropriate they are as guidelines and answers for today's questions and problems.
The theme that ties all these sayings together is found in the first seven verses of chapter one. A truly wise person can always listen and learn yet more. A truly wise person can learn the art not only of controlling his/her own life, but also the art of guiding and helping others. The roots of all knowledge are to be found in reverence and respect for God. Only a fool overlooks or spurns true wisdom and discipline.
Suggestion: The above paragraph is packed with meaning. The ideas will be repeated again and again to make sure the reader applies them to all phases of life.
There will be constant contrast between the wise person and the fool. Wisdom will be seen not only as knowledge but as deep probing into the why and wherefore of all things. To acquire this depth of knowledge, each person will have to have a strong sense of self-discipline. This means a type of self-control that will make it possible for the person to persevere in the pursuit of true knowledge even when others ignore the effort, laugh at the person who makes the effort, or even actively try to put obstacles in the path of the seeker.
To become a truly wise person should be the main goal in life for everyone. This goal demands much persevering effort because it is lifelong. To the moment of death, a person must be striving to become wise because the most important moment of life is the moment of death, and the most important duty of wisdom is to die wisely. What value does all the rest of your life have if you die “unwisely”?
In order to assure wisdom in the last moment of life, each person has to search for wisdom from the first conscious moments of life. Proverbs states it this way: “Listen, child, to your father's instruction and do not ignore your mother's teaching. These will form a rich crown for your head and a beautiful necklace for your neck.” (1:8-9)
Then the writer points out the threat to this wisdom in the life of the young person. There will always be the pull toward the folly of misconduct. There will always be companions who urge a person to lie, steal, cheat, damage the property of others, and endanger their own lives and the lives of others. The road to all these dangers is wide and runs downhill, and many there are who flock to this path. They will always be calling to others in a wild bravado to follow their dangerous lead. Above all, they will consider it a conquest if they can lead astray someone who knows better. (1:20-33)
As a very young child, each person must learn to discern between the true and the false, the good and the bad, the wise and the stupid. Parents are alert to this need in the little child. The baby has a tendency to put everything into its mouth. Therefore the parents must watch very carefully for what is lying within reach of the little child.
As the child grows older, the danger is not just what a person puts in the mouth but what the child puts in its mind, and especially what traits of character are developing. The child now needs a sense of honesty, honor, justice and fair dealing with self and others. He/she must realize that deceit and injustice are always at hand beckoning the unsuspecting person. If a person acquires the reputation for dishonesty, that person will be avoided by honest and upright people.
The child needs a sense of kindness and loyalty to others that will lead the person to help others even though it costs him effort and time. Loyalty and service to the needs of others will also be present if the person chooses bad companions. In fact, loyalty to the “gang” will be even more demanding and the punishment will be greater if the loyalty is not given. Yet, these same “bad” companions will be the first to cut and run when someone else is in need. (2:1-3:12)
The life of a wise person breathes a sigh of contentment at the end of actions and at the end of each day. This contentment is the source of true peace and happiness.
The wise young person does not go around looking for quarrels. If he knows that a particular person is ready to pick a quarrel or start a fight over the slightest provocation, he stays away from such a person. However, if a matter of honor or justice is in question, the wise child will stand up for what is right even though this may be unpopular or even make him the laughingstock of the crowd.(3:13-4:27)
A wise person can learn much from the example of the small ant. Watch these little creatures as they scurry back and forth. At first, they seem to be running in circles with no purpose or plan in mind. Get yourself a magnifying glass and follow a few individual ants. You will see that each has a large load of food that is being stored for bad weather. All summer, these ants run back and forth. Cold weather comes. The ants pull in the cover of their home - grain of sand by tiny grain. When it is all closed, warm, and safe for the winter, this colony of ants can enjoy the cold weather, assured that they have food to eat and a warm home until the sun of next summer shines again.
Wisdom stresses the responsibility to prepare for the future by the actions of the present. There is a sense of fulfillment as this path is followed but there is a special sense of enjoyment as the fruits of life's labor can be enjoyed in the storms of winter.
By way of a little summary, the author of Proverbs tells us some traits and actions that must be avoided. Wisdom does not tolerate any sense of superiority over others. It does not abide the tongue that spills over with lies. In no way will wisdom allow the shedding of innocent blood or crime of any sort. Wisdom cannot stay in the heart that is plotting evil or run with feet that hurry to carry out evil plans. Wisdom will not stay with the people who sow dissension among their fellow human beings.
Now the writer brings up a very important point of the stupidity or lack of wisdom seen in many people, especially the young. He asks us to think of how wild animals are caught. The same is true of human beings. You can read about them in this part of Proverbs, or you can read about them in the daily newspaper of today.
On the other side of this is the invitation extended by wisdom. The wise person will seek to know the purpose of all things. He will want to use each thing according to its purpose. The wise person will know ahead of time, the dangers that are involved in every action or event. Then he will decide whether there is any need to run from the danger.
There are two kinds of people who are most apt to lose or miss wisdom: the Cynics and those who follow Lady (Lord) Folly. The Cynics never see the value of success once it is attained. They never reach success themselves. The followers of Folly fail to assess Folly’s invitation. Folly sits in the open streets and open roads and calls out: “Let the ignorant, the stupid, the unwise, the fool step this way. Stolen waters are always better. Bread that is stolen always pleases the eater more.” The unwise listen to these words and walk willingly into the paths of failure, poverty, stupidity and loss of life. (5: 1-9: 18)
Why work? Why obey laws? Why suffer?
This book is often called by its Latin title “Ecclesiastes.” It means exactly the same thing, but I prefer the Hebrew title because most people have to pause and ask what it means.
The verb “qahal” in Hebrew means “to gather.” The “qehala” is the gathering. The Greek word, “ekkalein,” means “to call a group together” or to “gather.” The Greek word was transliterated into Latin as “ecclesia.” The German languages translated it as “kirche” and this was translated into English as “church.” Then the word “church” came to refer to the building or the gathering of people but primarily the building.
This is too bad because the emphasis of the Hebrew and the Greek is on the group of people who are “gathering” or coming together for whatever purpose. This gathering might be in a private home. It could be in a large hall. It could be in a special building. The place was of no importance. The important element was the group of people who were forming into a living unity for some special purpose.
Such a gathering of people always had to have someone in charge to make sure that they achieved their purpose for gathering together. This person was called the “Qoheleth” in Hebrew and the “Ekklesiastes” in Greek. Hence, the title of this book means the “thoughts of the one who is in charge of the gathering.”
The date for this book in its present form is about 250 B.C. The theme, at first glance, seems to be cynical or pessimistic. However, the basic teaching of the writer is found in the very last lines of the book:
“To sum up the whole question: Respect God!
Obey his commandments, for this is the complete duty of man. In the end, God will call all hidden deeds, good or bad, into open Judgment.” (Qoheleth 12: 13-14)
The opening lines and the rest of the book seem to be saying the opposite. The author starts with the statement: “Emptiness of emptiness and all is emptiness.” That is about as strongly put as possible. He goes on: “For all his effort under the sun, what does man gain from it?”
Chapter 3:1-8 gives the marvelous poem telling the time for everything on earth. The writer is not necessarily saying that we should do all these things. He is saying only that all these things are done at some time.
What is the value of the book? It is ideal to read this short work slowly if you are in a bad mood or events are going against you in your life. Read the whole book from beginning to end. You will find every possible frustration and failure mentioned in this short writing.
However, you have to read the last two verses also. Most people read about half way through and quit. They see the author as a total pessimist or agree that nothing on earth is worthwhile.
In our present world, especially after one of our daily newscasts, it would be well to read this writing of twenty-three centuries ago, and see that the author had a way of handling all the “bad news.”
THE SONG OF SONGS.
The Power of Love - Not Measured; Life Without Love - Empty.
This short writing has had a varied history in its usage by the Church. At one time it was considered almost a salacious book and dangerous for the immature to read. However, if it is kept in its setting and proper perspective, it takes on a whole new value.
As far as we can see, this collection of songs was put together for a practical purpose. Wedding feasts always lasted at least eight days. During that time there was feasting of every kind. There was much dancing and entertainment. One form of entertainment was singing.
At the pagan feasts, the songs were in keeping with fertility cults. They were deliberately lewd and openly leading to every kind of lascivious conduct. The Chosen People constantly had to be warned about these cults and their danger. In spite of warnings, they often gladly followed the lead of the pagans.
To offset the attraction of the lewd and obscene songs, these wedding songs were composed. They are presented as coming from Solomon because his court was filled with women, banquets, and song. Instead of being written about one couple, or wedding couple as in the pagan practice, this writing is presented as the wedding between Yahweh and his people. There is an introduction, 5 Songs, a conclusion or the Amen, and then some appendices that were tacked on at some time.
The Introduction proclaims that the union between Yahweh and his people should be very close. 1:1-4.
The First Song talks about the Great Trial that the Chosen People had undergone. The intent was to recall all the problems and difficulties they had endured in their history and the causes for the problems. 1:5-2:7.
The Second Song describes the Great Leader, who is Yahweh, and how worthy he is to be followed at all times. 2:8-3:5.
The Third Song tells us how great the people will become if they follow the lead and advice of Yahweh. 3:6-5:1.
The Fourth Song is the response of the people to this call of Yahweh. 5:2-6:3.
The Fifth Song is a description of the perfect unity of this great people. 6:4-8:4.
The conclusion: This is the “Amen” which is the firm act of understanding, conviction, commitment and follow through on the part of the people. 8:5-7.
Appendices: These are a few verses or “riders’ that were tacked on because of some particular usage.
It would be good to mention how these various writings are used in the Jewish Liturgy. They frequently talk of the FIVE FESTAL SCROLLS.
PASSOVER: Song of Songs;
DAY OF MOURNING: (Celebration of the calamity of 587 B.C.) Lamentations;
THE FEAST OF PURIM (Lots): Esther;
YOM KIPPUR during the Minhah: Jonah;
HANNUKAH: 2 Maccabees.
BOOK OF WISDOM.
Age Is to be Measured by the Wisdom Acquired.
We come to the last book of the Old Testament that is accepted by many religions. It was composed in Greek and came into existence around 50 B.C. The author is very clearly a devout believer in Yahweh and the Old Testament faith. He sees the dangers presented in the so-called wisdom of the Greek world and so he sets out to refute it.
The Book of Wisdom is like Proverbs and Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) when it comes to reading. Every line has something practical and profound to say to the reader. The whole purpose of the writer is to make sure that the reader is aware of true wisdom and lives by it in his/her daily life.
The writer says explicitly that God in no way wanted death to come into the world. Death is the result of the actions of the godless (1:13-16) . The term “Son of God” is clearly shown to mean any person who is pleasing to God and lives by his laws and wisdom (2:13,16,18; 5:5).
Wisdom is a gift from God and cannot be earned. However once the gift is accepted and used, the person will become ever wiser (8:21).
There is an explicit statement, for the first time in the Bible, that man is made from a “formless mass.” The Genesis account was not even concerned with HOW man was made. The writers of Genesis were talking only about WHY he was made. At this late date, the writer of Wisdom says it was a “FORMLESS MASS” to offset some of the statements of the Greek philosophers (11:17).
The writer also speaks of the problem of people who die young or in their infancy. Where is the love of this God? The writers answer that it is not length of days that gives value to life. Rather, the true value of life comes from the way in which those days are lived (4:7-14).
There is a lengthy expression of the manner in which Wisdom guided the patriarchs from Adam to Moses and in the Exodus. A clear expose of the emptiness of idolatry is given (cc. 10-12).
Application to New Testament:
Wisdom of Old Testament Writings Learned by John and Jesus.
With the completion of this Book of Wisdom, we wait a few years and Jesus comes with his explanation of how all of this preparation is fulfilled. Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth and Zachary were the products of this Old Testament philosophy and religion. They taught their children, Jesus and John (the Baptist), and these two boys discussed what they had heard, over and over again.
Then came the revelation to Jesus, at age 12, of the shallow legalism of the official teachers in Jerusalem. Finally, as young adults, John and Jesus gave to the world an interpretation of the full flowering of the Word of Yahweh.
Application to Present Day:
Value of Wisdom of Old and New Testament.
That interpretation has lived on for twenty centuries. When its principles are followed, the world is at peace and people prosper. When this interpretation is ignored or rejected, the human race sees wars and destruction.
A Book of Generosity, Self-control, Respect, Loyalty, Prudence.
Background to the Book.
The Hebrew title for this book is “The Wisdom of Ben Sirach.” This has been shortened to Sirach. There are some differences between the Hebrew and the Greek versions of the text. This book was seen to be extremely practical from the very beginning. The ideas were used commonly in the liturgical gatherings. Gradually, it became the most commonly used book of the Old Testament for readings and sayings. Hence, it was called the “Liber Ecclesiasticus” or the “Church Book.” This Latin title was kept. Now it is frequently used in all translations.
The date of origin is about 190 B.C. The final form which we use now is dated from about 132 B.C. The general format is much like the Book of
Proverbs except that the collections are a bit longer and more developed. There is a bit more explanation.
Answers to Particular Situations.
Like Proverbs, this book is marvelous to browse through for answers to particular questions or problems of daily life. Browsing slowly through the pages, a person will automatically be channeled into all sorts of good ideas and thought patterns. Chapter 24 is often called the central thought. It contains a detailed description of Wisdom in the plan of Yahweh and, as a result, in our lives.
The question of the dignity of women in society is often discussed. In the pagan world, women were the tools and playthings of men. They had no separate worth of their own. The Biblical picture is much different in many writings of the Old and New Testament.
Proverbs, chapter 31:10-31, is a marvelous description of the high place of women in Jewish society at that time. Sirach, chapter 25:13-26:18, is a description of women as the author saw them in the second century B.C. Both the good and bad aspects of women as women are pointed out. The language is very strong, but in no way does the author belittle the true dignity of women. Needless to say, various phrases and sentences have been taken out of context and give a false impression of the true teaching of Sirach.
Chapters 44-50 are a collection of eulogies of famous characters in the history of the Chosen People from Adam to the return from Exile.
There is no need to repeat the lines of the Book here. The reader should open his/her Bible to Sirach and read leisurely from one section to the other. Don’t rush to get finished, but savor the practical wisdom that is stored and handed on.