Praise of Moses, Aaron, and Phinehas
1From him came the man*
who would win the favor of all the living:a
Dear to God and human beings,
MOSES, whose memory is a blessing.
2God made him like the angels in honor,
and strengthened him with fearful powers.b
3At his words God performed signs
and sustained him in the king’s presence.
He gave him the commandments for his people,
and revealed to him his glory.c
4Because of his trustworthiness and meekness
God selected him from all flesh;d
5He let him hear his voice,
and led him into the cloud,
Where he handed over the commandments,
the law of life and understanding,*
That he might teach his precepts to Jacob,
his judgments and decrees to Israel.
6He also raised up, like Moses in holiness,*
his brother AARON, of the tribe of Levi.e
7He made his office perpetual
and bestowed on him priesthood for his people;
He established him in honor
and crowned him with lofty majesty.
8He clothed him in splendid garments,
and adorned him with glorious vestments:
Breeches, tunic, and robe
9with pomegranates at the hem
And a rustle of bells round about,
whose pleasing sound at each step
Would make him heard within the sanctuary,
a reminder for the people;
10The sacred vestments of gold, violet,
and crimson, worked with embroidery;
The breastpiece for decision, the ephod and cincture
11with scarlet yarn, the work of the weaver;
Precious stones with seal engravings
in golden settings, the work of the jeweler,
To commemorate in incised letters
each of the tribes of Israel;
12On his turban a diadem of gold,
its plate engraved with the sacred inscription—
Majestic, glorious, renowned for splendor,
a delight to the eyes, supremely beautiful.
13Before him, no one had been adorned with these,
nor may they ever be worn by any other
Except his sons and them alone,
generation after generation, for all time.
14His grain offering is wholly burnt
as an established offering twice each day;
15For Moses ordained him
and anointed him with the holy oil,
In a lasting covenant with him and his family,
as permanent as the heavens,
That he should serve God in the priesthood
and bless the people in his name.
16He chose him from all the living
to sacrifice burnt offerings and choice portions,
To burn incense, sweet odor as a memorial,
and to atone for the people of Israel.
17He gave to him the laws,
and authority to prescribe and to judge:
To teach precepts to the people,
and judgments to the Israelites.
18Strangers rose in anger against him,
grew jealous of him in the desert—
The followers of Dathan and Abiram,
and the band of Korah in their defiance.f
19When the LORD saw this he became angry,
and destroyed them in his burning wrath.
He brought against them a marvel,
and consumed them in flaming fire.
20Then he increased the glory of Aarong
and bestowed upon him his inheritance:
The sacred offerings he allotted to him,
with the showbread* as his portion;
21The oblations of the LORD are his food,
a gift to him and his descendants.
22But he holds no land among the people
nor shares with them their heritage;
For the LORD himself is his portion and inheritance
among the Israelites.
23PHINEHAS too, the son of Eleazar,
was the courageous third of his line
When, zealous for the God of all,
he met the crisis of his peopleh
And, at the prompting of his noble heart,
atoned for the children of Israel.
24Therefore, on him also God conferred the right,
in a covenant of friendship, to provide for the sanctuary,
So that he and his descendants
should possess the high priesthood forever.
25For even his covenant with David,
the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah,
Was an individual heritage through one son alone;i
but the heritage of Aaron is for all his descendants.
So now bless* the LORD
who has crowned you with glory!
26May he grant you wisdom of heart
to govern his people in justice,
Lest the benefits you confer should be forgotten,
or your authority, throughout all time.
* [44:23(end)–45:5] Moses manifested God’s power through marvels (vv. 1–3), God’s authority through the commandments and the Law (v. 5), and God’s mercy through the intimacy granted him by the Lord for his own faithfulness and meekness (v. 4).
* [45:5] On God’s intimacy with Moses, see Ex 33:11; Nm 12:8; Dt 34:10.
* [45:6–25] Ben Sira here expresses his reverence and esteem for the priesthood of the old covenant. He recalls God’s choice of Aaron and his sons for this sublime office (vv. 6–7), and describes in detail the beauty of the high priest’s vestments (vv. 8–13). He relates the ordination of Aaron at the hands of Moses (v. 15), and describes the priestly functions, namely, offering sacrifice to God (v. 16), and blessing (v. 15), teaching, governing, and judging the people (v. 17); the inheritance of the high priest (vv. 20–22); the punishment of those who were jealous of Aaron (vv. 18–19); and the confirmation of the covenant of the priesthood with Aaron’s descendants through Phinehas (vv. 23–25).
* [45:20] Showbread: cf. note on Ex 25:29–30.
* [45:25–26] So now bless: Ben Sira addresses the whole line of high priests, especially Simon II; cf. 50:1.
a. [45:1] Ex 2:2; 11:3; 33:11; Nm 12:7.
c. [45:3] Ex 7:1–7; 20:2–17; Dt 5:6–21.
e. [45:6–22] Ex 28–29; Wis 18:24.
g. [45:20–21] Nm 18:11–24; Dt 10:9.
h. [45:23] Nm 25:7–13; 1 Mc 2:26, 54; Ps 106:30–31.