Sirach 4:11-19 –
We are reminded that the Wisdom books of the Deuterocanon presents a developed notion of Wisdom as a personification of an attribute of God; however, we find a genesis of this concept in Proverbs chapters 4 and 8, among smaller points in Job (such as 11.6). We find a much fuller theology of Sophia/Logos in John’s Gospel as well as in Paul’s writings which declare that Christ is the Wisdom of God (1st Corinthians 1.24), which to any learned Jew of Second Temple Judaism would have recognized as describing the oneness of God. The New Testament writers understood the Jewish personification of Wisdom as Christ. The similarity between Wisdom in Proverbs, Sirach, and Wisdom (of Solomon) and the Logos as presented in John’s prologue is not coincidental.
This passage in Sirach is properly labeled ‘The Pursuit of Wisdom.’ Sirach has lead the poor and the rich to this point, that we are to seek the Wisdom of God and in doing so we seek the Lord Himself. Note that the verbs involved in this passage point to the fact that gaining Wisdom is neither passive nor automatic. It is not absorbed nor taught, but something to take, if as by force (Matthew 11.12).
(11) Wisdom exalts her children and lays hold to those who seek her.
We find this thought echoed in the Proverbs and by the words of the Lord.
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. (Proverbs 4:7-8 NKJV)
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” (Matthew 11:19 NKJV)
Verse 10 of Sirach points to the Incarnation of Christ and to the ability of humanity to partake of the divine nature of God. Peter tells us “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness”. Sirach tells us who that divine power is (of what) – it is Wisdom.
(12) Whoever loves her loves life, and those who seek her early will be filled with joy.
Again, we return to Proverbs,
For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the LORD; (Proverbs 8:35 NKJV)
And again, we remember the words of the Apostle Peter that the divine power gives us life and invite the investigation between 2nd Peter 1.3-4 and this passage of Sirach.
See also Wisdom 8.16-18
The phrase ‘seek her early’ is an Hebrew idiom meaning ‘make her your first priority’. We find it in reference to Wisdom in
I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. (Proverbs 8:17 NKJV)
‘Diligently’ may be translated as ‘early.’ It is found approximately 5 times in the Hebrew bible.
(13) Whoever holds her fast will inherit glory, and the Lord will bless the place she enters.
The Hebrew here reads,
They that take hold of her shall find glory from the Lord, and they shall abide in the glory of the Lord
(14) Those who serve her will minister to the Holy One; the Lord loves those who love her.
(15) He who obeys her will judge the nations, and whoever gives heed to her will dwell secure.
This is the same idea that we find in Wisdom (of Solomon) and in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians –
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever. (Wisdom 3:1-8 RSVA)
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? (1 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV)
It is the idea that those who serve God (through His Sophia or Logos) will inherit the world, becoming sons of God, judging the sinners.
(16) If he has faith in her he will obtain her; and his descendants will remain in possession of her.
(17) At first she will walk with him though he twist and turn, she will bring fear and dread upon him, and will torment him by her discipline until she trusts him, and she will test him with her ordinances.
(18) Then she will come straight back to him and gladden him, and will reveal her secrets to him.
(19) If he goes astray she will forsake him, and hand him over to his ruin.
Again, we turn to familiar grounds,
I traverse the way of righteousness, In the midst of the paths of justice, That I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, That I may fill their treasuries. (Proverbs 8:20-21 NKJV)
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10 RSVA)
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 1:6-7 NKJV)
The idea of testing is nothing new to either Jews or Christians, to Job, Sirach, or Peter.