1“LORD Almighty, God of Israel, the anguished soul, the dismayed spirit cries out to you. 2Hear, LORD, and have mercy, for you are a merciful God; have mercy on us, who have sinned against you: 3for you are enthroned forever, while we are perishing forever.a 4LORD Almighty, God of Israel, hear the prayer of the dead of Israel, children who sinned against you; they did not listen to the voice of the LORD, their God, and their evils cling to us.b 5Do not remember the wicked deeds of our ancestors, but remember at this time your power and your name, 6for you are the LORD our God; and you, LORD, we will praise! 7This is why you put into our hearts the fear of you: that we may call upon your name, and praise you in our exile, when we have removed from our hearts all the wickedness of our ancestors who sinned against you.c 8See, today we are in exile, where you have scattered us, an object of reproach and cursing and punishment for all the wicked deeds of our ancestors, who withdrew from the LORD, our God.”
II. PRAISE OF WISDOM*
A. Importance of Wisdom
9Hear, Israel, the commandments of life:
listen, and know prudence!d
10How is it, Israel,
that you are in the land of your foes,
grown old in a foreign land,
11Defiled with the dead,
counted among those destined for Hades?e
12You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom!f
13Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have dwelt in enduring peace.g
14Learn where prudence is,
where strength, where understanding;
That you may know also
where are length of days, and life,
where light of the eyes, and peace.h
15Who has found the place of wisdom?i
Who has entered into her treasuries?
16Where are the rulers of the nations,
who lorded it over the wild beasts of the earth,j
17made sport of the birds in the heavens,
Who heaped up the silver,
the gold in which people trust,
whose possessions were unlimited,
18Who schemed anxiously for money,
their doings beyond discovery?
19They have vanished, gone down to Hades,
and others have risen up in their stead.
20Later generations have seen the light of day,
have dwelt on the earth,
But the way to understanding they have not known,
21they have not perceived her paths or reached her;
their children remain far from the way to her.
22She has not been heard of in Canaan,*
nor seen in Teman.k
23The descendants of Hagar who seek knowledge on earth,
the merchants of Medan and Tema,l
the storytellers and those seeking knowledge—
These have not known the way to wisdom,
nor have they kept her paths in mind.
B. Inaccessibility of Wisdom
24O Israel, how vast is the dwelling of God,*
how broad the scope of his dominion:
25Vast and endless,
high and immeasurable!
26In it were born the giants,*
renowned at the first,
huge in stature, skilled in war.m
27These God did not choose,
nor did he give them the way of understanding;n
28They perished for lack of prudence,
perished through their own folly.o
29Who has gone up to the heavens and taken her,
bringing her down from the clouds?p
30Who has crossed the sea and found her,
bearing her away rather than choice gold?
31None knows the way to her,
nor has at heart her path.
32But the one who knows all things knows her;
he has probed her by his knowledge—
The one who established the earth for all time,
and filled it with four-footed animals,
33Who sends out the lightning, and it goes,
calls it, and trembling it obeys him;
34Before whom the stars at their posts
shine and rejoice.
35When he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!”
shining with joy for their Maker.q
36Such is our God;
no other is to be compared to him:
C. Wisdom Contained in the Law
37* He has uncovered the whole way of understanding,
and has given her to Jacob, his servant,
to Israel, his beloved.r
38Thus she has appeared on earth,
is at home with mortals.s
* [3:9–4:4] This poem in praise of personified Wisdom utilizes the theme of Jb 28 (where is wisdom to be found?) and it identifies wisdom and law, as in Sir 24:22–23.
* [3:22–23] Despite the renown for wisdom of the peoples of Canaan and Phoenicia (Ez 28:3–4), of Teman (Jer 49:7), of the descendants of Hagar or the Arabians of Medan and Tema, they did not possess true wisdom, which is found only in the law of God (Bar 4:1).
* [3:24] The dwelling of God: here, the whole universe; cf. Is 66:1.
* [3:26] The giants: Gn 6:1–4 reflects a tradition about giants who existed before the flood; this was developed in the non-canonical Book of Enoch.
* [3:37–38] As in Sir 24:8, Wisdom is given to Israel but also is said to live with all human beings (Prv 8:31).
d. [3:9] Dt 6:4–5; Prv 4:20–22.
f. [3:12] Jer 2:13; Jn 4:10, 14.
j. [3:16] Jer 27:6; 1 Cor 1:20.
k. [3:22] Jb 2:11; Jer 49:7; Ez 28:4–5; Zec 9:2.
l. [3:23] Gn 25:2, 15; Jb 6:19; Jer 25:23.
m. [3:26] Gn 6:4; Wis 14:6; Sir 16:7.
p. [3:29] Dt 30:12–13; Sir 24:4; Rom 10:6–7.
q. [3:35] Jb 38:7; Ps 147:4; Is 40:26.
r. [3:37] Ps 147:19; Sir 24:8–12.