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Archive for the ‘Note on Sirach’ Category

My Notes on Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 27, 2013

I am here using the RSVCE in accordance with its copyright permission: The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. 

Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:

“The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Background~after a brief prologue the book proper opens with a praise of Wisdom (Sirach 1:1-29), dealing first with its origin with God (Sir 1:1-8); its being rooted in the fear of the Lord (Sir 1:9-18); and how one attains it (Sir 1:19-29). Sirach 2:1-18 focuses on one’s duties towards God. The quest to live by wisdom will bring adversity, demanding sincerity, patience, steadfast adherence to God (Sir 2:1-6) who can and must be trusted (Sir 2:7-18).

Chapter 3 of Sirach consists of two complete sections and the introduction of a third. The first section, Sirach 3:1-16, deals with one’s duties towards father and mother, a logical extension of fear of and trust in the Lord “For the Lord honored the father above the children, and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons” (Sir 2:2). If father and mother are honored with rights over children then any act of rebellion or disobedience can be taken as a lack of humility, thus leading into the exhortations to humility in Sir 3:17-22; followed by warnings concerning pride (Sir 3:23-29). There then follows warnings and exhortations to help the poor and oppressed (Sir 3:30-4:10).

Sir 3:17 My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts. 

Perform your tasksyou will be loved by those whom God accepts. These tasks would certainly include one’s obligation towards parents whom God accepts, and whom He has honored, and whose rights He has confirmed (Sir 2:2). It would also include ones obligations towards the power, powerless, oppressed, for the Creator hears the prayers of such (Sir 4:6).

Sir 3:18 The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord.

A radical demand in a fallen world, but one that is necessary, “for God abases the proud, but he saves the lowly” (Job 22:29).  

Haydock Commentary: The dignity of a person should be the measure of his humility, (S. Amb. de virg. 31.) as the most elevated are the most exposed to pride. Humility is taught only by true wisdom and the gospel. Matt. 11:29. Philosophy may inspire us with the contempt of riches, &c. C.—Yet humility is the most indispensable duty, and no less essential than delivery to an orator. S. Aug. ep. 118. ad Diosc.—All human greatness comes from God, who requires us to shew our gratitude by humility. W. .

St Augustine: Let him remember that this very Gospel of John, which urges us so pre-eminently to the contemplation of truth, gives a no less remarkable prominence to the inculcation of the sweet grace of charity. Let him also consider that most true and wholesome precept which is couched in the words, “The greater thou art, the more humble thyself in all” (Sir 3:18) For the evangelist who presents Christ to us in a far loftier strain of teaching than all the others, is also the one in whose narrative the Lord washes the disciples’ feet (Jn 13:5). (Harmony of the Gospels).

Sir 3:20 (verses 19 NAB) For great is the might of the Lord; he is glorified by the humble.  

For he raises the humble up in the face of the proud and arrogant: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; or he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away” (Lk 1:46-53). 

Sir 3:21 (verse 20 NAB) Seek not what is too difficult for you, nor investigate what is beyond your power.

“Our author’s position is not anti-intellectual-he is protesting against any philosophizing that might obscure the clear light of God’s revelation” (Ernest Lussier, S.S.S., Old Testament Reading Guide: The Book of Proverbs and the Book of Sirach). 

See the Summa Theologica I, Q 1, a 1 and Summa Theologica II-II Q 167, a 1.

Sir 3:29 (verse 28 NAB) The mind of the intelligent man will ponder a parable, and an attentive ear is the wise man’s desire. 

The wisdom teachers often called upon their hearers to be attentive to their proverbs, parables and other teachings (Ps 78:1-2; 49:1-4; Mt 13:9, 43). 

The words of this verse contrast nicely with Sir 3:24, 26-28 (verses 23-27 in the NAB). It is an act of humility and true intelligence to ponder the meaning of parables offered by the wise, and the truly wise loves and desires such teachings. 

Sir 3:30 (verse 29 NAB).Water extinguishes a blazing fire: so almsgiving atones for sin.

Kindness to the poor (like kindness towards parents, Sir 3:3, 14, 15) is compared to a sin offering (for more on almsgiving in Sirach see see Sir 7:32-36, 29:8-13).

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Some Brief Notes on Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 45:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 6, 2012

Please Note: Sirach 45, verses one through six in the Douay-Rheims version that I am using, corresponds to Sirach 45, verses one through five in the NAB.

Background~Sirach 42:15-43:35 celebrated the manifestation of God’s wisdom through creation. Sirach 44:1-50:24 celebrates the revelation of God’s wisdom in His people as exemplified in individuals like the patriarchs, prophets, judges, and kings (see 44:1-15 which serves as an introduction). Chapter 45 shows forth God’s wisdom with praise of Moses, Aaron, and Phineas. Verses 1-6 (1-5, NAB) are concerned with Moses. In older lectionaries the text was often employed for memorials of Saints and holy people who exemplified the God-given gifts and traits exhibited by Moses.

Sir 45:1….beloved of God, and men: whose memory is in benediction.

Moses was beloved of (by) God, chosen and endowed with the various gifts he needed to accomplish his mission.

Whose memory is in benediction. Praised as a godly man (Sir 44:1), his deeds are recounted (Sir 44:8), his wisdom spoken of and praised (Sr 44:15).

Sir 45:2  He made him like the saints in glory, and magnified him in the fear of his enemies, and with his words he made prodigies to cease.

He made him like the saints in glory. The saints (or holy ones) are a reference to the angels who reflect the glory of God. The reference here is to the radiance which shone on Moses’ face when the tablets of the Law were renewed (Exodus 34:27-35, and see also 2 Cor3:7-13).

Magnified him in the fear of his enemies, and with his words made prodigies to cease. A reference to his confrontations with Pharaoh and the magicians in Exodus 7-11. God performed many wonders through Moses’ hand.

This particular verse is applicable in reference to those saints who worked miracles.

Sir 45:3  He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him commandments in the sight of his people, and shewed him his glory.

He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him commandments. The NAB translates the first part of this verse in reference to one king, Pharaoh. The plural is probably a reference to Pharaoh and Amalek (Exodus 17:8-14), the latter warred against Israel before the arrival at Sinai and the giving of the Law (see Exodus 19-20).

And shewed him his glory. As in verse 2 above, this is a reference to Exodus 34:27-35.

This particular verse lends itself for application to those saints who withstood kings, rulers, emperors, potentates and governors who sought to thwart the will and word of God and destroy his people.

Sir 45:4  He sanctified him in his faith, and meekness, and chose him out of all flesh.

In Numbers 12:3 we read: Moses was a man exceeding meek above all men that dwelt upon earth. It was precisely for this reason that God reacted against Aaron and Miriam when they became jealous of his status (see Num 12:1-8).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2576: “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”[Ex 33:11] Moses’ prayer is characteristic of contemplative prayer by which God’s servant remains faithful to his mission. Moses converses with God often and at length, climbing the mountain to hear and entreat him and coming down to the people to repeat the words of his God for their guidance. Moses “is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly, not in riddles,” for “Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth.”[see Num 12:3-8].

Sir 45:5  For he heard him, and his voice, and brought him into a cloud.
Sir 45:6  And he gave him commandments before his face, and a law of life and instruction, that he might teach Jacob his covenant, and Israel his judgments.

The gifts of faith and meekness formed the basis upon which other gifts were given. Moses was granted even greater gifts: intimacy with God and his function as a prophet and as mediator of the covenant (Ex 33:11; Num 12:6-8; Deut 34:10).

These last three verses are applicable to those who exhibit faith and meekness and whose fidelity and humility grow, even as more and more responsibilities (and the problems that come with them) are thrust upon them.


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My Notes on Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 39:6-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 5, 2012

Background: Sirach 38:24-39:11 (38:25-39:11 in RSV) deals with the subject of the scribal profession in contrast to that of the craftsman. The latter are not denigrated, for without them there would be no cities to live in; and they can feed themselves by the work of their own hands (my paraphrase of Sir 38:32). Their work is a reflection of the Creator God’s activity and honors Him:  They keep stable the fabric of the world, and their prayer is in the practice of their trade (Sir 38:34, RSV). Still, the work of the man who studies, teaches and applies the Law of God is superior. While the craftsman deals in temporal things in service to others, the scribe deals first with eternal things in order to serve others, even in temporal matters like governing the state: He shall serve among great men, and appear before the governor (Sir 39:4, DRV). Towards this service he is sent to other lands to learn what is good and evil concerning foreigners (39:5).

Note: I’m using the Douay Rheims translation in the notes which follow. The verse numbering employed by the NAB and the RSV differs from it.

Sir 39:6   He will give his heart to resort early to the Lord that made him, and he will pray in the sight of the most High.

In spite of his service to the state (see previous verses) the office of the scribe is still essentially religious.  Early every morning he will turn his heart to the God who made him. Placing himself in the presence God he will direct his prayers to Him.

Sir 39:7  He will open his mouth in prayer, and will make supplication for his sins.

He who searches out evil among others must always remember that he himself is a sinner (see verse 5). Matthew 7:1-5 is applicable here.

Sir 39:8  For if it shall please the great Lord, he will fill him with the spirit of understanding:

God is the source of wisdom, and if one wants to be filled with it, one must first empty oneself of all that is inimical to it. the context here is sin (previous verse).

Sir 39:9  And he will pour forth the words of his wisdom as showers, and in his prayer he will confess to the Lord.

Once filled with the wisdom of God the scribe will pour it out abundantly, like rain upon others (Deut 32:2), and give God the glory, rather than pretend the wisdom is his own.

Sir 39:10  And he shall direct his counsel, and his knowledge, and in his secrets shall he meditate.

Having emptied himself of sin so as to be filled with wisdom, the scribe can only now direct his counsel and knowledge in a right fashion. He will also be able to ponder (meditate) upon greater and deeper mysteries (secrets).

Sir 39:11  He shall shew forth the discipline he hath learned, and shall glory in the law of the covenant of the Lord.

He will become a model for others, an example to be imitated as his ways glorify the covenant.

Sir 39:12  Many shall praise his wisdom, and it shall never be forgotten.
Sir 39:13  The memory of him shall not depart away, and his name shall be in request from generation to generation.

Sir 39:14  Nations shall declare his wisdom, and the church shall shew forth his praise.

His wisdom is from and eternal source (God) and, consequently, his manifestation of it in his life and instruction will live on after him, spreading far and wide. These verses recall earlier ones: A wise man instructeth his own people, and the fruits of his understanding are faithful. A wise man shall be filled with blessings, and they that see shall praise him. The life of a man is in the number of his days: but the days of Israel are innumerable. A wise man shall inherit honour among his people, and his name shall live for ever (Sir 37:25-29).


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My Notes on Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 31:8-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 5, 2012

This passage (but not the only one) was traditionally read as the first reading for the Memorial of a Confessor who was not a Bishop. It is still used for confessors today. Concerning confessors the Catholic Encyclopedia says: “The word confessor is derived from the Latin confiteri, to confess, to profess, but it is not found in writers of the classical period, having been first used by the Christians. With them it was a title of honour to designate those brave champions of the Faith who had confessed Christ publicly in time of persecution and had been punished with imprisonment, torture, exile, or labour in the mines, remaining faithful in their confession until the end of their lives. The title thus distinguished them from the martyrs, who were so called because they underwent death for the Faith“.

Sir 31:8  Blessed is the rich man that is found without blemish: and that hath not gone after gold, nor put his trust in money nor in treasures.

Blessed is the rich man that is found without blemish. The beatitude contrasts nicely with verse 5 (note the color coding)~”He that loveth gold, shall not be justified: and he that followeth after corruption, shall be filled with it. According to Sirach 13:30~”Riches are good to him that hath no sin in his conscience.”

Proverbs 22:9~He that is inclined to mercy, shall be blessed: for of his bread he hath given to the poor. He that maketh presents, shall purchase victory and honour: but he carrieth away the souls of the receivers.

I’m posting this for the memorial of Saint Joannis de Matha (St John of Matha), who worked for the release of Christian captives and hostages from muslims seeking lucre. Needless to say, in such a position, a temptation to pocket the lucre (money) would have been a possibility. Saint Joannis (John) however fulfilled his mission admirably.

Sir 31:9  Who is he, and we will praise him? for he hath done wonderful things in his life.

Who is he, and we will praise him? The first part (who is he) may suggests that such a man is a rarity. The charitable rich man will be praised, not so the miser: “Turn not away thy eyes from the poor for fear of anger: and leave not to them that ask of thee to curse thee behind thy back. For the prayer of him that curseth thee in the bitterness of his soul, shall be heard, for he that made him will hear him” (Sirach 4:5-6).

He hath done wonderful things in his life. Acts of charity.

Sir 31:10  Who hath been tried thereby, and made perfect, he shall have glory everlasting. He that could have transgressed, and hath not transgressed: and could do evil things, and hath not done them:

Riches can be a trail, and lead to transgression and evil. A man with money at his disposal who doesn’t succumb to this shows great spiritual character. It is this that is praiseworthy.

Sir 31:11  Therefore are his goods established in the Lord, and all the church of the saints shall declare his alms.

Therefore are his goods established in the Lord. Such a man “shall not be moved forever (Ps 112:6). In contrast to the wealthy man who used his goods ill~”Therefore will God destroy thee for ever: he will pluck thee out, and remove thee from thy dwelling place: and thy root out of the land of the living. The just shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, and say: Behold the man that made not God his helper: But trusted in the abundance of his riches: and prevailed in his vanity” (ps 52:7-9).

And all the church of the saints shall declare his alms. What Pope Alexander VII said of St Thomas of Villanova in the Bull of Canonization we can justly apply to St John de Matha and all those who remained unstained by money: Thy name, as well as thy justtice shall remain forever, O St John of De Matha, because thou hast distributed and given to the poor (Ps 112:9); all of the church of the saints shall declare thy alms (Sirach 31:11). Teach us to show mercy to our brethren, so that, by thy prayers, we may obtain for ourselves the mercy of God.”

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My Notes on Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 45:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 4, 2012

The passage concerns Moses and has been traditionally used for the Feast of St Joseph and the Common of Abbots. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, after extolling the faith of the ancients such as Moses, tells us that “all these, being approved by the testimony of faith, received not the promise: God providing some better thing for us, that they should not be perfected without us” (Heb 11:39-40). Later, concerning his readers more immediate (i.e., Christian) ancestors in the faith writes: “Remember your leaders who have spoken the word of God to you: whose faith follow, considering the end of their lives” (Heb 13:7). All believers, but especially those who have been graced to lead others, should end their lives with the epithet: “The world was not worthy of then” (Heb 11:38). By remembering the lives, virtues, and deeds of the Saints of the Church with scripture texts celebrating the Saints of the OT, we show forth the continuity of faith and worship: “I give thanks to God, whom I serve from my forefathers” (2 Tim 1:3).

Sir 45:1b Beloved of God, and men: whose memory is in benediction.

Beloved of God and men. The first part (Beloved of God) recalls Numbers 12:6-8, wherein Moses is identified as greater than any prophet among the people~”Hear my words: if there be among you a prophet of the Lord, I will appear to him in a vision, or I will speak to him in a dream. But it is not so with my servant Moses who is most faithful in all my house: For I speak to him mouth to mouth: and plainly, and not by riddles and figures doth he see the Lord.  The second part (beloved of men), recalls Exodus 11:3~”And Moses was a very great man in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharao’s servants, and of all the people.”

Whose memory is in benediction. “Of blessed memory”, or, as in the RSV, “Whose memory is blessed.”

Sir 45:2  He made him like the saints in glory, and magnified him in the fear of his enemies, and with his words he made prodigies to cease.

He made him like the saints in glory. Better, “He made him like the holy ones in glory.” The reference is to the angels. The author probably has in mind the fact that both angels and Moses worked wonders, and acted as messengers from God.

Magnified him in the fear of his enemies. I’m not aware of any passage of Scripture which speaks of Moses enemies fearing him. The author is probably referring to the fear that came upon the enemies of Israel, of whom Moses was the leader (see for example Num 22:3; Joshua 2:9-11).

And with his words he made prodigies to cease. A reference to Exodus 8:4-8; Exodus 8:21-27; Exodus 9:27-33; Exodus 10:16-20.

Sir 45:3  He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him commandments in the sight of his people, and shewed him his glory.

Glorified him in the sight of kings. Most obviously Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1).

Gave him commandments in the sight of his people, and shewed him his glory. The people witnessed the theophany on Sinai, during which event Moses ascended the mountain and received the commandments (see Exodus chapters 19-31). Later, after Moses had broken the tablets of the Law because of the golden calf (Exodus 32), he had interceded for the people and asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18-34:35).

Sir 45:4  He sanctified him in his faith, and meekness, and chose him out of all flesh.

He sanctified him in his faith, and meekness. The basic meaning of sanctification or holiness is “to be set apart.” That which is sanctified (i.e., people or things) is removed from the realm of the profane and placed in relation to God. The concept came to be applied to Israel (Ex 19:6; Deut 7:1-6), and later to the Church (1 Cor 1:2), in association to the idea of election (called, chosen, etc).

Concerning the faith of Moses see Hebrews 11:24-29. Concerning his meekness see Numbers 12:1-15, especially verse 3. It is probably this event from numbers that the author has primarily in mind when he speaks of God choosing Moses out of all flesh.

And chose him out of all flesh. As already indicated, God’s choice involves a consecration, a sanctifying, a setting apart. Moses is here held up as unique among all other who might have been so chosen. He thus foreshadowed Christ who “was counted worthy of greater glory than Moses” (Heb 3:1-6).  However, as noted in the previous paragraph, the author probably has in mind-at least primarily-the events of Numbers 12. This is strengthened by what follows.

Sir 45:5  For he heard him, and his voice, and brought him into a cloud.

Emphasizes the unique intimacy Moses had with God, something others, including prophets like Miriam and Aaron did not enjoy. See Exodus 33:9-11;

Sir 45:6  And he gave him commandments before his face, and a law of life and instruction, that he might teach Jacob his covenant, and Israel his judgments. Note: in some translations (e.g., NAB) this verse is included with verse 5.

And he gave him commandments before his face. See Deut 34:10.

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