Sirach 1.22-30 – Self-Control brings Wisdom

In this section, the writer gives us the virtues of a life of self-control.

(22)  Unrighteous anger cannot be justified, for a man’s anger tips the scale to his ruin.

The Apostle Paul tells us,

BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, (Ephesians 4:26 NASB)

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, (Ephesians 4:26 NLT)

Anger is seen as something not to be a part of in the new community being organized in the Gospels. (See Matthew 5.22), however, as human as anger is, divinity requires anger to cease. Anger, for Sirach as is later said by Christ, places the person in an unwelcome position.

Chrysostom says,

The other affections which are within us, are in some cases useful. For instance, Anger is often useful. For (saith he) “unjust wrath shall not be innocent”: wherefore it is possible for one to be justly in wrath.  (Chrysostom – Homily on Hebrews)

We would be told by Paul that temperance was a fruit of the spirit.

(23)  A patient man will endure until the right moment, and then joy will burst forth for him.
(24)  He will hide his words until the right moment, and the lips of many will tell of his good sense.
(25)  In the treasuries of wisdom are wise sayings, but godliness is an abomination to a sinner.

Sirach sees the man under control of himself with patience, joy, a good reputation, and wisdom. The Apostle Paul echoes this as well with his constant fight to bring his own body on control. It is a daily war, Paul laments, but it is made easier by the help of the Paraclete.

(26)  If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments, and the Lord will supply it for you.
(27)  For the fear of the Lord is wisdom and instruction, and he delights in fidelity and meekness.

Sirach here mixes in such is the notions as we would describe as free will and grace. If we desire Wisdom – which the New Testament community would (con)fuse with Christ and later writers – then we must keep His commandments. Paul tell us in Colossians 3.16, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,’.  John relates to us the words of Christ,

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10 NASB)

When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  (John 15:10 NLT)

The two authors share the same thought pattern, in that if a believer keeps the commandments of God, then it is God who will give Wisdom, on in John’s case, love, the Spirit, and the Son, which at various times each is (con)fused with Wisdom herself.

Returning to Sirach, we read,

(28)  Do not disobey the fear of the Lord; do not approach him with a divided mind.

It seems the ‘fear’ here is personified as well, as Wisdom has been and Word will be. It was a come practice among 2nd Temple Judaism to personify certain attributes of God, such as Wisdom, His Word, and the Name of the Lord. Especially in John, we can see that Christ is the personified nature of the Father, Wisdom, Logos, and is fully invested with the Name of the Father.

(29)  Be not a hypocrite in men’s sight, and keep watch over your lips.
(30)  Do not exalt yourself lest you fall, and thus bring dishonor upon yourself. The Lord will reveal your secrets and cast you down in the midst of the Assembly, because you did not come in the fear of the Lord, and your heart was full of deceit.

Assembly is ἐκκλησίᾳ, with is often times translated as Church in the New Testament. In Stephen’s speech at his martyrdom, he easily calls Israel God’s Assembly (Church in the KJV), which was not the first time that this word was applied to Israel, although it later became singled out for the Christian community,

Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God’s people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai. And there Moses received life-giving words to pass on to us. (Acts 7:38 NLT)

This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living oracles to give to us. (Acts 7:38 RSV)

οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ γενόμενος ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ μετὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου τοῦ λαλοῦντος αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ ὄρει Σινᾶ καὶ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν, ὃς ἐδέξατο λόγια ζῶντα δοῦναι ἡμῖν,

As the New Testament community developed past the synagogue, and the Greek Old Testament was used for the new Gentile converts, ἐκκλησίᾳ  no doubt become a point of connection between the new community and the old.

Sirach is warning that those that are without self control will not be missed by God who will reveal the secrets where all of the people of God may see.

Post By Joel Watts (10,109 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

Connect

20 thoughts on “Sirach 1.22-30 – Self-Control brings Wisdom

  1. Because a writing express truth does not make that writing the word of God. Many of the truths in the Apocrypha appear also in previous books of the cannon like Proverbs, etc.

    More important, the church does not have authority to determine the Old Testament cannon any more than Israel has the authority to determine the New Testament cannon. Only Israel has the authority to determine the Old Testament cannon according to Rom 3:1,2 “WHAT advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.”

    The Old Testament cannon was committed to the Jews. They alone have authority from God concerning its contents.

  2. Russ, you are indeed correct that a measure of truth does not indeed make the whole part inspired, however, you next point is a bit false. The Jews, especially with Sirach, did not fully settle their canon until after Christ and the Church – when they no longer had the authority to decide the oracles.

    You final statement is wholly incorrect. What if the Jews decided to remove Isaiah? Or Hosea? Or Joel? What then? Would they have that authority even today?

  3. The authority God gave to Israel over the Old Testament cannon, even though they rejected their Savior, is irrevocable.

    For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. [Rom 11:29]

    Is it possible for Israel to remove a book?

    For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. [Mat 5:18]

    Cults may indeed remove or add or change the word of God that they hold out to exclusively their members and for them God says,

    For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. [Rev 22:18,19]

    But the word of God as a whole, though it was ratified by men, remains forever.

    Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. [Mat 24:35]

  4. Russ, their authority ended when they rejected Christ.

    Glad you responded.

    First, the words were committed to the Jews – but’s let see how literal you want to make that. If you take it literal, then there would be no New Testament, since obviously the words of the New Testament are reject by the Jews. Wait, you said they have no authority, although the only real separation between the ‘testaments’ that exists is man-made.

    Now, there is not separation in that verse concerning what is the Jews and what is not. Instead, if you took it literal, and added your own interpration, then either you are giving the Jews the authority to dismiss the New Testament or you calling only the Old Testament the Word of God.

    Further, the Jews used Sirach and Wisdom, as well as others, until after Christ, and according to Justin, they would remove books and passages because of the Christological import of those items.

    And can you show me where Paul actually meant canon? Or did he mean the prophecies concerning Christ?

    I take it, that you are not a supercessionist? And you never did answer my question.

    I didn’t say if a cult took out a chapter or a book, I said if the Jews said tomorrow that Isaiah was no longer recongized, would you remove it from your bible?

  5. I responded to your question by saying that it is impossible for the Jews to remove a book because Jesus said, “… not one jot…” I did answer you.

    Secondly, it is obvious that the Apocrypha was written by Jews about Jews and before the birth of Jesus Christ and therefore Jews alone have the God-given authority to determine their canonicity. The New Testament was written by Christian about Christians and after the crucifixion of Jesus and therefore only Christians have the God-given authority to determine their canonicity.

    God has given authority to the Jews concerning the Old Testament and has given authority to Church concerning the New Testament. The Church has no authority to determine the Old Testament cannon nor does Israel have authority to determine the New.

  6. So, they what gives them the authority to remove Sirach, Wisdom, and the others?

    Israel is the Church, Russ, thus we have the authority. Again, what makes you think ‘oracles’ means canon?

  7. Oracle:
    a diminutive of logos, “a word, narrative, statement,” denotes “a Divine response or utterance, an oracle;” it is used of
    (a) the contents of the Mosaic Law, Act 7:38;
    (b) all the written utterances of God through OT writers, Rom 3:2;
    (c) the substance of Christian doctrine, Hbr 5:12;
    (d) the utterance of God through Christian teachers, 1Pe 4:11.
    In the context oracle could only be referring to the Old Testament. Paul is speaking about the Jew so in the context it is limited to the Old Testament.

    If oracle is not speaking of the Old Testament, what is Paul talking about?

    Why is it that the church thinks that it has authority to determine the Old Testament cannon? These books were written about Jews and by the Jews. They have nothing to do with the church but only pertain to the nation of Israel and therefore only Israel has the authority to determine if they are true.

    The Church has accepted every decision that Israel has made concerning the OT cannon. We have never argued with Israel over the inclusion of Isaiah or psalms or proverbs. We have accepted and acknowledged all that we have received from them. Israel had hundreds of years to canonize the Apocrypha but they did not include it in the cannon of scripture. Why would the church suddenly question the authority of Israel over that OT cannon when we have never had reason to question their authority prior to these books?

    God has given exceedingly great and precious promises to the church. Are these not enough for her or must she mettle in her brother’s affairs?

  8. Russ,

    Again, Paul was not speaking about the Old Testament, because the Old Testament had yet to be canonized. It was speaking about the prophets and their words.

    If you do not think that the Old Testament pertain to the Church, then you must believe that the Church and her Lord promised in it do not either? Paul called it the schoolmaster and you call it nothing.

    The Church did not except every decision concerning the OT canon – ask Augustine. As a matter of fact, besides the loud echoes in the New Testament of the Deuterocanon, the early Church fathers directly quoted from it. Where they wrong and you right?

    The Church has a brother? Russ, the Church is Israel.

Leave a Reply, Please!