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Sirach 44-49

Hymn in Honour of Our Ancestors *

44Let us now sing the praises of famous men,
   our ancestors in their generations.
2 The Lord apportioned to them* great glory,
   his majesty from the beginning.
3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
   and made a name for themselves by their valour;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
   those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
4 those who led the people by their counsels
   and by their knowledge of the people’s lore;
   they were wise in their words of instruction;
5 those who composed musical tunes,
   or put verses in writing;
6 rich men endowed with resources,
   living peacefully in their homes—
7 all these were honoured in their generations,
   and were the pride of their times.
8 Some of them have left behind a name,
   so that others declare their praise.
9 But of others there is no memory;
   they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
   they and their children after them.
10 But these also were godly men,
   whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
11 their wealth will remain with their descendants,
   and their inheritance with their children’s children.*
12 Their descendants stand by the covenants;
   their children also, for their sake.
13 Their offspring will continue for ever,
   and their glory will never be blotted out.
14 Their bodies are buried in peace,
   but their name lives on generation after generation.
15 The assembly declares* their wisdom,
   and the congregation proclaims their praise.


16 Enoch pleased the Lord and was taken up,
   an example of repentance to all generations.


17 Noah was found perfect and righteous;
   in the time of wrath he kept the race alive;*
therefore a remnant was left on the earth
   when the flood came.
18 Everlasting covenants were made with him
   that all flesh should never again be blotted out by a flood.


19 Abraham was the great father of a multitude of nations,
   and no one has been found like him in glory.
20 He kept the law of the Most High,
   and entered into a covenant with him;
he certified the covenant in his flesh,
   and when he was tested he proved faithful.
21 Therefore the Lord* assured him with an oath
   that the nations would be blessed through his offspring;
that he would make him as numerous as the dust of the earth,
   and exalt his offspring like the stars,
and give them an inheritance from sea to sea
   and from the Euphrates* to the ends of the earth.

Isaac and Jacob

22 To Isaac also he gave the same assurance
   for the sake of his father Abraham.
The blessing of all people and the covenant
23   he made to rest on the head of Jacob;
he acknowledged him with his blessings,
   and gave him his inheritance;
he divided his portions,
   and distributed them among twelve tribes.


From his descendants the Lord* brought forth a godly man,
   who found favour in the sight of all

451and was beloved by God and people,
   Moses, whose memory is blessed.
2 He made him equal in glory to the holy ones,
   and made him great, to the terror of his enemies.
3 By his words he performed swift miracles;*
   the Lord* glorified him in the presence of kings.
He gave him commandments for his people,
   and revealed to him his glory.
4 For his faithfulness and meekness he consecrated him,
   choosing him out of all humankind.
5 He allowed him to hear his voice,
   and led him into the dark cloud,
and gave him the commandments face to face,
   the law of life and knowledge,
so that he might teach Jacob the covenant,
   and Israel his decrees.


6 He exalted Aaron, a holy man like Moses*
   who was his brother, of the tribe of Levi.
7 He made an everlasting covenant with him,
   and gave him the priesthood of the people.
He blessed him with stateliness,
   and put a glorious robe on him.
8 He clothed him in perfect splendour,
   and strengthened him with the symbols of authority,
   the linen undergarments, the long robe, and the ephod.
9 And he encircled him with pomegranates,
   with many golden bells all round,
to send forth a sound as he walked,
   to make their ringing heard in the temple
   as a reminder to his people;
10 with the sacred vestment, of gold and violet
   and purple, the work of an embroiderer;
with the oracle of judgement, Urim and Thummim;
11   with twisted crimson, the work of an artisan;
with precious stones engraved like seals,
   in a setting of gold, the work of a jeweller,
to commemorate in engraved letters
   each of the tribes of Israel;
12 with a gold crown upon his turban,
   inscribed like a seal with ‘Holiness’,
a distinction to be prized, the work of an expert,
   a delight to the eyes, richly adorned.
13 Before him such beautiful things did not exist.
   No outsider ever put them on,
but only his sons
   and his descendants in perpetuity.
14 His sacrifices shall be wholly burned
   twice every day continually.
15 Moses ordained him,
   and anointed him with holy oil;
it was an everlasting covenant for him
   and for his descendants as long as the heavens endure,
to minister to the Lord* and serve as priest
   and bless his people in his name.
16 He chose him out of all the living
   to offer sacrifice to the Lord,
incense and a pleasing odour as a memorial portion,
   to make atonement for the* people.
17 In his commandments he gave him
   authority and statutes and* judgements,
to teach Jacob the testimonies,
   and to enlighten Israel with his law.
18 Outsiders conspired against him,
   and envied him in the wilderness,
Dathan and Abiram and their followers
   and the company of Korah, in wrath and anger.
19 The Lord saw it and was not pleased,
   and in the heat of his anger they were destroyed;
he performed wonders against them
   to consume them in flaming fire.
20 He added glory to Aaron
   and gave him a heritage;
he allotted to him the best of the first fruits,
   and prepared bread of first fruits in abundance;
21 for they eat the sacrifices of the Lord,
   which he gave to him and his descendants.
22 But in the land of the people he has no inheritance,
   and he has no portion among the people;
   for the Lord* himself is his* portion and inheritance.


23 Phinehas son of Eleazar ranks third in glory
   for being zealous in the fear of the Lord,
and standing firm, when the people turned away,
   in the noble courage of his soul;
   and he made atonement for Israel.
24 Therefore a covenant of friendship was established with him,
   that he should be leader of the sanctuary and of his people,
that he and his descendants should have
   the dignity of the priesthood for ever.
25 Just as a covenant was established with David
   son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah,
that the king’s heritage passes only from son to son,
   so the heritage of Aaron is for his descendants alone.

26 And now bless the Lord
   who has crowned you with glory.*
May the Lord* grant you wisdom of mind
   to judge his people with justice,
so that their prosperity may not vanish,
   and that their glory may endure through all their generations.

Joshua and Caleb

46Joshua son of Nun was mighty in war,
   and was the successor of Moses in the prophetic office.
He became, as his name implies,
   a great saviour of God’s* elect,
to take vengeance on the enemies that rose against them,
   so that he might give Israel its inheritance.
2 How glorious he was when he lifted his hands
   and brandished his sword against the cities!
3 Who before him ever stood so firm?
   For he waged the wars of the Lord.
4 Was it not through him that the sun stood still
   and one day became as long as two?
5 He called upon the Most High, the Mighty One,
   when enemies pressed him on every side,
and the great Lord answered him
   with hailstones of mighty power.
6 He overwhelmed that nation in battle,
   and on the slope he destroyed his opponents,
so that the nations might know his armament,
   that he was fighting in the sight of the Lord;
   for he was a devoted follower of the Mighty One.
7 And in the days of Moses he proved his loyalty,
   he and Caleb son of Jephunneh:
they opposed the congregation,*
   restrained the people from sin,
   and stilled their wicked grumbling.
8 And these two alone were spared
   out of six hundred thousand infantry,
to lead the people* into their inheritance,
   the land flowing with milk and honey.
9 The Lord gave Caleb strength,
   which remained with him in his old age,
so that he went up to the hill country,
   and his children obtained it for an inheritance,
10 so that all the Israelites might see
   how good it is to follow the Lord.

The Judges

11 The judges also, with their respective names,
   whose hearts did not fall into idolatry
and who did not turn away from the Lord—
   may their memory be blessed!
12 May their bones send forth new life from where they lie,
   and may the names of those who have been honoured
   live again in their children!

13 Samuel was beloved by his Lord;
   a prophet of the Lord, he established the kingdom
   and anointed rulers over his people.
14 By the law of the Lord he judged the congregation,
   and the Lord watched over Jacob.
15 By his faithfulness he was proved to be a prophet,
   and by his words he became known as a trustworthy seer.
16 He called upon the Lord, the Mighty One,
   when his enemies pressed him on every side,
   and he offered in sacrifice a sucking-lamb.
17 Then the Lord thundered from heaven,
   and made his voice heard with a mighty sound;
18 he subdued the leaders of the enemy*
   and all the rulers of the Philistines.
19 Before the time of his eternal sleep,
   Samuel* bore witness before the Lord and his anointed:
‘No property, not so much as a pair of shoes,
   have I taken from anyone!’
   And no one accused him.
20 Even after he had fallen asleep, he prophesied
   and made known to the king his death,
and lifted up his voice from the ground
   in prophecy, to blot out the wickedness of the people.


47After him Nathan rose up
   to prophesy in the days of David.


2 As the fat is set apart from the offering of well-being,
   so David was set apart from the Israelites.
3 He played with lions as though they were young goats,
   and with bears as though they were lambs of the flock.
4 In his youth did he not kill a giant,
   and take away the people’s disgrace,
when he whirled the stone in the sling
   and struck down the boasting Goliath?
5 For he called on the Lord, the Most High,
   and he gave strength to his right arm
to strike down a mighty warrior,
   and to exalt the power* of his people.
6 So they glorified him for the tens of thousands he conquered,
   and praised him for the blessings bestowed by the Lord,
   when the glorious diadem was given to him.
7 For he wiped out his enemies on every side,
   and annihilated his adversaries the Philistines;
   he crushed their power* to our own day.
8 In all that he did he gave thanks
   to the Holy One, the Most High, proclaiming his glory;
he sang praise with all his heart,
   and he loved his Maker.
9 He placed singers before the altar,
   to make sweet melody with their voices.*
10 He gave beauty to the festivals,
   and arranged their times throughout the year,*
while they praised God’s* holy name,
   and the sanctuary resounded from early morning.
11 The Lord took away his sins,
   and exalted his power* for ever;
he gave him a covenant of kingship
   and a glorious throne in Israel.


12 After him a wise son rose up
   who because of him lived in security:*
13 Solomon reigned in an age of peace,
   because God made all his borders tranquil,
so that he might build a house in his name
   and provide a sanctuary to stand for ever.
14 How wise you were when you were young!
   You overflowed like the Nile* with understanding.
15 Your influence spread throughout the earth,
   and you filled it with proverbs having deep meaning.
16 Your fame reached to far-off islands,
   and you were loved for your peaceful reign.
17 Your songs, proverbs, and parables,
   and the answers you gave astounded the nations.
18 In the name of the Lord God,
   who is called the God of Israel,
you gathered gold like tin
   and amassed silver like lead.
19 But you brought in women to lie at your side,
   and through your body you were brought into subjection.
20 You stained your honour
   and defiled your family line,
so that you brought wrath upon your children,
   and they were grieved* at your folly,
21 because the sovereignty was divided
   and a rebel kingdom arose out of Ephraim.
22 But the Lord will never give up his mercy,
   or cause any of his works to perish;
he will never blot out the descendants of his chosen one,
   or destroy the family line of him who loved him.
So he gave a remnant to Jacob,
   and to David a root from his own family.

Rehoboam and Jeroboam

23 Solomon rested with his ancestors,
   and left behind him one of his sons,
broad in* folly and lacking in sense,
   Rehoboam, whose policy drove the people to revolt.
Then Jeroboam son of Nebat led Israel into sin
   and started Ephraim on its sinful ways.
24 Their sins increased more and more,
   until they were exiled from their land.
25 For they sought out every kind of wickedness,
   until vengeance came upon them.


48Then Elijah arose, a prophet like fire,
   and his word burned like a torch.
2 He brought a famine upon them,
   and by his zeal he made them few in number.
3 By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens,
   and also three times brought down fire.
4 How glorious you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
   Whose glory is equal to yours?
5 You raised a corpse from death
   and from Hades, by the word of the Most High.
6 You sent kings down to destruction,
   and famous men, from their sickbeds.
7 You heard rebuke at Sinai
   and judgements of vengeance at Horeb.
8 You anointed kings to inflict retribution,
   and prophets to succeed you.*
9 You were taken up by a whirlwind of fire,
   in a chariot with horses of fire.
10 At the appointed time, it is written, you are destined*
   to calm the wrath of God before it breaks out in fury,
to turn the hearts of parents to their children,
   and to restore the tribes of Jacob.
11 Happy are those who saw you
   and were adorned* with your love!
   For we also shall surely live.*


12 When Elijah was enveloped in the whirlwind,
   Elisha was filled with his spirit.
He performed twice as many signs,
   and marvels with every utterance of his mouth.*
Never in his lifetime did he tremble before any ruler,
   nor could anyone intimidate him at all.
13 Nothing was too hard for him,
   and when he was dead, his body prophesied.
14 In his life he did wonders,
   and in death his deeds were marvellous.

15 Despite all this the people did not repent,
   nor did they forsake their sins,
until they were carried off as plunder from their land,
   and were scattered over all the earth.
The people were left very few in number,
   but with a ruler from the house of David.
16 Some of them did what was right,
   but others sinned more and more.


17 Hezekiah fortified his city,
   and brought water into its midst;
he tunnelled the rock with iron tools,
   and built cisterns for the water.
18 In his days Sennacherib invaded the country;
   he sent his commander* and departed;
he shook his fist against Zion,
   and made great boasts in his arrogance.
19 Then their hearts were shaken and their hands trembled,
   and they were in anguish, like women in labour.
20 But they called upon the Lord who is merciful,
   spreading out their hands towards him.
The Holy One quickly heard them from heaven,
   and delivered them through Isaiah.
21 The Lord* struck down the camp of the Assyrians,
   and his angel wiped them out.
22 For Hezekiah did what was pleasing to the Lord,
   and he kept firmly to the ways of his ancestor David,
as he was commanded by the prophet Isaiah,
   who was great and trustworthy in his visions.


23 In Isaiah’s* days the sun went backwards,
   and he prolonged the life of the king.
24 By his dauntless spirit he saw the future,
   and comforted the mourners in Zion.
25 He revealed what was to occur to the end of time,
   and the hidden things before they happened.

Josiah and Other Worthies

49The name* of Josiah is like blended incense
   prepared by the skill of the perfumer;
his memory* is as sweet as honey to every mouth,
   and like music at a banquet of wine.
2 He did what was right by reforming the people,
   and removing the wicked abominations.
3 He kept his heart fixed on the Lord;
   in lawless times he made godliness prevail.

4 Except for David and Hezekiah and Josiah,
   all of them were great sinners,
for they abandoned the law of the Most High;
   the kings of Judah came to an end.
5 They* gave their power to others,
   and their glory to a foreign nation,
6 who set fire to the chosen city of the sanctuary,
   and made its streets desolate,
   as Jeremiah had foretold.*
7 For they had maltreated him,
   who even in the womb had been consecrated a prophet,
to pluck up and ruin and destroy,
   and likewise to build and to plant.

8 It was Ezekiel who saw the vision of glory,
   which God* showed him above the chariot of the cherubim.
9 For God* also mentioned Job
   who held fast to all the ways of justice.*
10 May the bones of the Twelve Prophets
   send forth new life from where they lie,
for they comforted the people of Jacob
   and delivered them with confident hope.

11 How shall we magnify Zerubbabel?
   He was like a signet ring on the right hand,
12   and so was Jeshua son of Jozadak;
in their days they built the house
   and raised a temple* holy to the Lord,
   destined for everlasting glory.
13 The memory of Nehemiah also is lasting;
   he raised our fallen walls,
and set up gates and bars,
   and rebuilt our ruined houses.


14 Few have* ever been created on earth like Enoch,
   for he was taken up from the earth.
15 Nor was anyone ever born like Joseph;*
   even his bones were cared for.
16 Shem and Seth and Enosh were honoured,*
   but above every other created living being was Adam.


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