An Introduction to the Apocrypha-Part One
Editor's note: Many of us have had little exposure to the Old Testament Apocrypha but are probably at least a little curious about what these books contain and what value they might have for Christians. In this new series of articles, we invite you to join us in exploring the Apocrypha.
THE WISDOM OF BEN-SIRACH
by Jared L. Olar
I remember the first time I ever saw a Catholic Bible. I was a young teenager, and my family and I were visiting the home of some of my mother's distant cousins in northern Illinois. On a small table near the window of the front room, I saw an old copy of the Douay-Rheims Version, the Catholic equivalent of the King James Version (KJV), which appeared somewhat worn from frequent use. I sat down in a chair adjacent to the table, picked up the Bible, and began to leaf through it. Immediately my head started spinning, because this version of the Bible was so very different from the KJV with which I was familiar. One of the most obvious differences was the spelling of proper names: Josue instead of Joshua, Osee instead of Hosea, Esaias instead of Isaiah, Abdias instead of Obadiah, Adeodatus instead of Elhanan (??), etc. Another thing that puzzled me was the presence of two books in the Old Testament named I and II Paralipomenon (???)-but I quickly saw that these were the same as I and II Chronicles in the KJV. Of course at that time I did not know why anyone would have chosen a word like ``Paralipomenon'' for those two books. In fact to this day I still chuckle to myself when that word crosses my grey matter. There is just something about it that some part of me seems to find amusing, even though I now know what the word means and why those books were given that word as a title (it is Greek for ``things omitted,'' i.e. omitted from Samuel and Kings, an altogether inappropriate title for I and II Chronicles).
But the next thing I noticed was that this Bible's Old Testament was quite a bit longer than the one in my KJV, mainly due to the fact that the Douay-Rheims had seven books just not to be found in the KJV. These were the books of Tobit, Judith, Baruch, I and II Maccabees, The Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus. It was then that I remembered reading some articles in my parents' old Plain Truth and Good News magazines, in which these seven books were described as ``Apocrypha.'' The same articles had also informed me that Catholic Bibles included the Apocrypha, whereas Protestant Bibles excluded them. And now I had my first opportunity to read from these ``extra'' books of the Old Testament. I and II Maccabees seemed quite interesting, and reminded me in many ways of Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, and I and II Kings. Judith, however, read like a cheap imitation of an Old Testament historical book. As for Ecclesiasticus, I immediately noticed how similar it was to Proverbs and Ecclesiastes-but did not understand why anyone would want another, even longer collection of proverbs in one's Bible, especially one with a title so confusingly similar to Ecclesiastes. I wondered if perhaps ``Ecclesiasticus'' just meant ``Another Book Like Ecclesiastes Only A Whole Lot Longer''-for this book was the longest by far of all the Apocrypha, with a total of fifty-one chapters.
Having perused this Catholic Bible to my satisfaction, I closed it and returned it to the table where I had found it. I was simply amazed that anyone could have messed up the Old Testament as much as I thought the Douay-Rheims translators had. I carried those negative first impressions with me over the years, occasionally revisiting the Apocrypha and various unauthentic Jewish writings from the era prior to the birth of Jesus Christ.
In time my negative appraisal of the Apocrypha softened somewhat-but it was not until 1995 that I obtained for my own use, and convenience of study, a Bible that contained the Apocrypha. Wholly apart from the issue of whether these books (along with extra chapters of Daniel and Esther) belong in the Old Testament, I knew that a proper understanding of Judaism and Christianity in the first century A.D. is impossible without a solid grasp of the Apocrypha. In the words of the editors of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV),
``These are books, with one or two exceptions, that were found in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint), but not in the Hebrew. The early church, which used the Greek Old Testament, took them over as part of their sacred writings. There was also an awareness in the church that these books were not in the Hebrew Scriptures and therefore there were questions about them.... Most of the books of the Apocrypha were written between about 200 B.C. and A.D. 100.... They contain important teachings which, as Christians in all ages have recognized, are helpful to our growth as persons of faith. At the very least, these books help us understand Judaism in the time of Jesus, and therefore understand Jesus better.''
Therefore, on this basis at least, all Christians should find the Apocrypha worthy of study: These books were well known to Jesus and the Apostles, and even accepted as divinely-inspired by many if not most early Christians. Thus, for the benefit of any who might desire some basic knowledge of the longest of the Apocryphal books, I will present below the essential facts pertaining to the Book of Ecclesiasticus, along with a sampling its teachings.
Genre, Authorship, Intent, and Time of Composition:
Of all the books of the Apocrypha, perhaps the one known as The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach (also called Ecclesiasticus) offers the reader the most easily accessible practical instruction. That is because, as I mentioned above, it is very similar to the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. In fact, these three books are all classified as ``wisdom literature,'' a genre of ancient Jewish literature that was apparently pioneered by King Solomon. However, this overall likeness between Ben-Sirach's book and King Solomon's cautionary memoir Ecclesiastes is entirely unrelated to the confusing similarity of the words ``Ecclesiastes'' and ``Ecclesiasticus.'' Ben-Sirach's book was not named in imitation of Solomon's. Rather, ``Ecclesiastes'' is a Greek translation of the Hebrew title of Solomon's book, Qoheleth (meaning ``preacher, teacher, lecturer, or schoolmaster''). In contrast, ``Ecclesiasticus'' is a Latin word. During the Middle Ages, the clergy (``ecclesiastics'') of the Catholic Church relied very heavily on The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach for instruction in morality. Consequently The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach came to be designated as Liber Ecclesiasticus, or ``Church-ish Book'' as we might say in English. Even today this book has a prominent place in Catholic liturgy. It has also exerted some influence on the worship traditions of non-Catholic Christians. For instance, the text of the old hymn ``Now Thank We All Our God,'' which is sung in Christian churches the world over (e.g. the WCG Hymnal, p.22), was adapted in the seventeenth century from the words of Sirach 50:22-24 by Martin Rinkart.
I believe that almost the best introduction to The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach that one could receive is the prologue that was written by Ben-Sirach's own grandson, who translated his grandfather's book into Greek. This is what he had to say about his grandfather's compilation of wisdom:
``Many great teachings have been given to us through the Law and the Prophets and the other books that followed them, and for these we should praise Israel for instruction and wisdom. Now, those who read the Scriptures must not only themselves understand them, but must also as lovers of learning be able through the spoken and written word to help the outsiders. So my grandfather Jesus, who had devoted himself especially to the reading of the Law and the Prophets and the other books of our fathers, and had acquired considerable proficiency in them, was himself also led to write something pertaining to instruction and wisdom, so that by becoming familiar with what he too had written those who love learning might make even greater progress in living according to the Law. . . . When I came to Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes [132 B.C.] and stayed for some time, I found a reproduction of our valuable teaching [i.e., probably the Greek Septuagint]. It seemed highly necessary that I should devote some diligence and labor to the translation of this book. During that time I have applied my skill day and night to complete and publish the book for those living abroad [i.e. Greek-speaking Jews, and interested Gentiles] who wished to gain learning and are disposed to live according to the Law.''
From this we are able to learn the name of the author of this book, the general period of time when he lived, why he undertook to write his book, and what he hoped to accomplish by writing it. When one considers ancient Hebrew religious literature, whether biblical or extrabiblical, it is quite rare to be able to discern so clearly an author's intent-let alone ascertain an author's name and the time he wrote his book. But in the case of The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach, the author and his grandson provide us with several clear facts and suggestive clues. As we have seen in the prologue written by the author's grandson, this book was written by a man named Jesus (Hebrew Yeshua). Even more, the author identifies himself in his epilogue in this way:
``Instruction in understanding and knowledge I have written in this book-Jesus son of Eleazar son of Sirach of Jerusalem, whose mind poured forth wisdom.'' (Sirach 50:27)
This information reveals that the author-Yeshua ben El'azar ben Sirach-was a resident of Jerusalem. The book he wrote testifies to his impressive grasp of the Hebrew Scriptures, which in turn makes it likely that he was a scribe, perhaps a Levite or even a priest. In any event he placed great value in the Aaronite High Priesthood and the Temple worship in Jerusalem, as one can readily discern from Ben-Sirach's lofty praise of the High Priest Shimon II (Sirach 50:1-21). In praising him, Ben-Sirach provides us with a glimpse of a High Priest whom he had seen with his own eyes, for Shimon II served as High Priest from 219 to 196 B.C. This helps to narrow down the likely dates that Ben-Sirach wrote his book, for we know that his grandson translated the book into Greek a few years after 132 B.C. Ben-Sirach therefore must have flourished around 200 B.C., and in all likelihood wrote his book no later than 175 B.C. (By the way, the testimony of Ben-Sirach's grandson is also important as evidence that by 200 B.C. the Hebrew Scriptures already had their traditional tripartite classification of Torah (Law), Nebi'im (Prophets), and Kethubim (Writings)-though of course the Jewish authorities of that era had not yet settled the exact order of the books, nor were they sure whether to include certain books in their Bible. Compare also Luke 24:44.)
But how did it come about that Yeshua Ben-Sirach was, as his grandson said, ``led to write something pertaining to instruction and wisdom''? Ben-Sirach himself provides the answer to that question in Sirach 24:23-34, where he compares the wisdom of God to a river of living waters, and then says:
``As for me, I was like a canal from a river, like a water channel into a garden. I said, `I will water my garden and drench my flower-beds.' And lo, my canal became a river, and my river a sea. I will again make instruction shine forth like the dawn, and I will make it recognisably clear even from a great distance. I will again pour out teaching like prophecy, and leave it to all future generations. Observe that I have not labored for myself alone, but for all who seek wisdom.''
In other words, as he acquired more and more wisdom, what had started as merely a private desire to gain wisdom and understanding quickly gave way to a dawning realisation that he needed to help everyone else find wisdom too. One can very well imagine that the fifty-one chapters of Ecclesiasticus had germinated in stray notes that Ben-Sirach had originally prepared for his own personal study.
New Testament Awareness of The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach:
As mentioned above, as a rule the early Church was thoroughly familiar with Ecclesiasticus, and accepted this book along with the rest of the Greek Septuagint as the inspired Word of God. In the first century A.D., Ecclesiasticus was highly regarded by both Jews and Christians-although, regrettably, as time went on the Jews began to avoid this book the more Christians made use of it. This high esteem in which Ecclesiasticus was held is shown by numerous allusions to it throughout the New Testament. In addition to direct or indirect allusion to Ben-Sirach's teachings, there are also a great many features of Ecclesiasticus that provide linguistic and cultural context to New Testament teachings and events, without which it would be impossible for us properly to understand the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles. Here are a few representative samples from the Gospel of Matthew:
Jesus Christ's teachings on blessedness during the Sermon on the Mount, the ``Beatitudes'' (Matt. 5:2-11), were delivered in a way that apparently testifies to the familiarity that Jesus and His audience had with Sirach 25:7-10. In that passage, Ben-Sirach says:
``I can think of nine whom I would call blessed,
and a tenth my tongue proclaims:
a man who can rejoice in his children;
a man who lives to see the downfall of his foes.
Blessed is the man who lives with a sensible wife,
and the one who does not plow with ox and ass together.
Blessed is the one who does not sin with his tongue,
and the one who has not served an inferior.
Blessed is the one who finds a friend,
and the one who speaks to attentive listeners.
How great is the one who finds wisdom!
But none is superior to the one who fears the Lord."
In content, the nine Beatitudes of Jesus Christ are quite unlike Ben-Sirach's list of nine (or ten rather) types of blessed individuals-and no doubt Christ intended this sharp contrast in content. However, it is plain to see that the basic structure of nine beatitudes is common to both of these great Jewish teachers.
Sirach 9:8 is another instance in which a teaching from the Sermon on the Mount had been anticipated some 230 years before by Ben-Sirach. In that place, Ben-Sirach admonished his readers, ``Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman, and do not gaze at beauty that belongs to another man; many have been seduced by a woman's beauty, and by it passion is kindled like a fire.'' That is the essence of Jesus Christ's declaration in Matt. 5:28 that ``any man who looks on a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.''
There is also an interesting parallel in Jesus' words found in Matt. 6:7 (``When you pray, do not use babbling repetitions . . . .'') and the words of Ben-Sirach in Sirach 7:14 (``Do not babble in the assembly of the elders, and do not repeat yourself when you pray.'') This helps to demonstrate the strong continuity of both the tradition and the theology of Jewish and Christian prayer.
Finally, there is even an anticipation of the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12) in the Book of Ecclesiasticus. Now, Jesus Christ is certainly the most important ancient sage to teach His followers to ``do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'' But before Him the Golden Rule had already been pronounced by such worthies as Confucius among the Chinese, and among the Jews by Philo Judaeus of Alexandria and the unknown author of the Book of Tobit (ch. 4:15). Significantly, at about the time that Jesus Christ was born the great Rabbi Hillel the Elder also taught the Golden Rule as the essential spirit and teaching of the Torah. When a Gentile dared him to explain the entire Law of Moses while balancing on one foot, Hillel said, ``What is hateful to thyself do not to thy fellow-man. This is the whole Torah-the rest is commentary. Now go and study.'' Rabbi Hillel's explanation of the Golden Rule is virtually identical to the version found in the Book of Tobit. But about two centuries before Hillel's day, the Jewish sage Ben-Sirach wrote his own version of the Rule:
``Judge your neighbor's feelings by your own, and in every matter be considerate.'' (Sirach 31:15)
Among uninformed Christians and non-Christians, it is not uncommon to find the mistaken belief that Jesus Christ personally came up with the Golden Rule. Faced with the disappointing testimony showing that both Jews and Gentiles were quite familiar with the Golden Rule prior to the birth of Jesus, some Christians have sought solace by claiming that Jesus formulated the Rule in a positive way (``Do unto others''), whereas everyone else formulated it negatively (``Do not unto others''). However, this distinction between the positive and negative forms is purely arbitrary, being founded upon the odd notion that being told to do good things is somehow holier than being told to avoid doing bad things. In any case the early Church was unaware of any special significance in the positive form of the Golden Rule as opposed to the negative form. We know this from the fact that when the author of the Didache (circa 100 A.D.) adapted the Gospel of Matthew to provide Christian converts with moral instruction, he took it on himself to reformulate Jesus' version of the Golden Rule in the negative form. And not many years after that, the Christian apologist Marcianus Aristides also cited the Rule in negative form.
However, Sirach 31:15 shows that just as Jesus Christ did not originate the Golden Rule, so also He had nothing to do with the origin of the positive form of the rule. On the contrary, when we compare the words of Jesus Christ to the words of Rabbi Hillel and Ben-Sirach, one is led to conclude that Jesus freely adapted the teachings of Hillel and Ben-Sirach, borrowing from Ben-Sirach the positive form of the Rule, and from Rabbi Hillel the claim that the Golden Rule is the whole of the Law. However, as The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach shows, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Jesus' use of the positive form of the Rule is a special sign of the manifestly greater nobility of His teachings in comparison to the teachings of the other sages of old.
Common Objections to Ecclesiasticus-Salvation Theology:
Despite the many positive aspects of The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach, some of which we have seen above, this book has also been criticised in certain circles. For example, beginning with Martin Luther and John Calvin, many if not most Protestant Christians have objected to Ben-Sirach's teachings on soteriological grounds. Without a doubt, Ben-Sirach's soteriology-that is, his understanding of the manner in which God saves us-starkly contradicts the soteriology known as Sola Fide (``Faith Alone'') that was originated and developed by Luther, Calvin, and their disciples. Let us consider three of the passages of Ecclesiasticus that contradict Sola Fide:
1. ``As water extinguishes a blazing fire, so almsgiving atones for sin.'' (Sirach 3:30)
Throughout Ecclesiasticus one finds the concept that acts of righteousness-especially helping the poor, the needy, and the suffering-can atone for one's personal sins. Although that concept coincides with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles (as in Matt. 6:19-23; 19:16-22; 25:31-46; Eph. 4:28; and I Peter 4:8, to cite just some of many such passages), it would inevitably be rejected by someone who believed that (as Martin Luther wrote) ``Those pious souls who do good to gain the Kingdom of Heaven not only will never succeed, but they must even be reckoned among the impious; and it is more important to guard them against good works than against sin.'' Because the mainstream of Protestant soteriology insists that our righteous works have absolutely no bearing on our salvation, Sirach 3:30 in and of itself would suffice to condemn the entire Book of Ecclesiasticus in the minds of most Protestants.
2. ``Do not be so confident of forgiveness that you add sin to sin. Do not say, `His mercy is great, He will forgive the multitude of my sins.,' for both mercy and wrath are with Him, and His anger will rest on sinners.'' (Sirach 5:5-6)
In contrast to this very fitting admonition from Ben-Sirach, on 1 August 1521 Martin Luther asserted, ``Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your faith in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where righteousness can exist . . . . No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery a thousand times each day.'' It is not surprising, then, that someone with such beliefs would find fault with the Book of Ecclesiasticus.
3. ``Do not say, `It was the Lord's doing that I fell away'; for He does not do what He hates. Do not say, `It was He who led me astray'; for He has no need of the sinful. The Lord hates all abominations; such things are not loved by those who fear Him. It was He who created Man in the beginning, and He left him in the power of his own free choice. If you choose, you can keep the commandments; and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given. For great is the wisdom of the Lord; He is mighty in power and sees everything; His eyes are on those who fear Him, and He knows every human action. He has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and He has not given anyone permission to sin.'' (Sirach 15:11-20)
The Protestant Reformers Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli were all strongly opposed to the concept of free will, insisting that God's omniscience and omnipotence utterly cancel out all possibility that there is such a thing as human free will. In fact, Luther regarded his essay De Servo Arbitrio (``Concerning the Bondage of the Will'') as his most important work. In that essay, Luther wrote, ``. . . we do everything of necessity, and nothing by `free will'; for the power of `free will' is nil . . . . with regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, [man] has no `free-will,' but is a captive, prisoner, and bondslave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan. . . . Man is like a horse. Does God leap in the saddle? The horse is obedient and accomodates itself to every movement of the rider and goes whither he wills it. Does God throw down the reins? Then Satan leaps upon the back of the animal, which bends, goes and submits to the spurs and caprices of its new rider . . . . Therefore, necessity, not `free will,' is the controlling principle of our conduct. God is the author of what is evil as well as of what is good, and, as He bestows blessedness on those who merit it not, so also does He damn others who deserve not their fate.'' Zwingli said essentially the same thing in his essay On Providence: ``God leads and forces man into evil . . . . The creature . . . although acting involuntarily under the divine guidance, sins.''
Of course, Ben-Sirach and the Protestant Reformers were in agreement in their very high view of God's omnipotence and omniscience. This is seen not only from Sirach 15:18-19 (quoted above), but also from Sirach 23:19-20, in which Ben-Sirach says, ``[The adulterer] does not realise that the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun; they look upon every aspect of human behavior and see into hidden corners. Before the universe was created, [the adulterer's sin] was known to Him . . . .'' However, the Reformers Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli did not agree with Ben-Sirach's insistence that man has free will. In this specific matter they had made a complete break with the mainstream of Judaeo-Christian belief on human nature, for the teachings found in Sirach 15:11-20 that reserve a place for human free will were only amplifications of the even more ancient teachings found in Deut. 30:11-20.
Thus we can see that many, if not most, Protestant Christians would find fault with Ben-Sirach's soteriology. But probably the majority of Christians would have no such objections to Ecclesiasticus.
Common Objections to Ecclesiasticus-Was Ben-Sirach a Male Chauvinist Pig?
However, in modern times both Christians and non-Christians have criticised Ben-Sirach as a misogynist. Certainly there are a few passages in Ecclesiasticus that women of almost any era or culture would probably not find very appealing (viz. Sirach 25:12-25; 26:1-18; 42:9-14). Speaking for myself, I was terribly offended when I first read these words:
``Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good; it is woman who brings shame and disgrace.'' (Sirach 42:14 NRSV)
Some of the readers of this journal may recall that I cited this and other statements drawn from the NRSV's translation of Ecclesiasticus, characterising them as ``twisted thinking about women'' (``Just What Do You Mean . . . `Weaker Vessel'?,'' Grace and Knowledge no. 4, p.14). Without a doubt, the sentiments expressed in the above statement can only be described as extremely twisted theological misogyny. Sadly, there has indeed been a corrupted, illegitimate stream of Judaeo-Christian tradition that denigrates women and exalts men. Furthermore, social life in Judaea during the second century B.C. was decidely male-dominated, the social roles of women and the rules defining appropriate feminine conduct in public being much more rigidly defined than those to which we modern Americans have grown accustomed over the past several decades. Ben-Sirach's views on women would inevitably reflect the realities of life with which he was familiar-so it would not be impossible for him to have been a misogynist.
But in fairness, we will never achieve a proper understanding of what Ben-Sirach taught regarding women through a ``sound-bite'' approach to his book, such as I am guilty of having used in my article last year. After all, stripped of context the most innocuous of words could become terribly offensive-all the more so when one must take into account so drastic a cultural ``disconnect'' as there is when we moderns read a book like Ecclesiasticus. A fair reading of Ben-Sirach's statements, taking context and culture in consideration, should make them sound much less misogynistic.
But surely, the words that I quoted above could not be anything but the most horrifying hatred of womankind. How could any considerations soften the cruelty, the darkened chauvinism, of those words?
The solution to this difficulty is to be found through recourse to alternative translations of Sirach 42:14. As the NRSV has rendered this passage, Ben-Sirach apparently inserted a tangential and irrelevant attack on womankind into a discussion of how fathers should treat their teenage daughters. But in the New American Bible (NAB) we find a completely different translation:
``Better a man's harshness than a woman's indulgence, and a frightened daughter than any disgrace.''
Thus, what the NRSV sees as ``wickedness,'' the NAB sees as ``harshness''; what the NAB sees as ``indulgence'' the NRSV sees as ``doing good''; and what the NRSV sees as ``bringing shame'' the NAB sees as ``fright.'' All in all, the NAB's rendering is far superior to the NRSV: because it fits the immediate context instead of being an unexpected and unwarranted fulmination, because it translates Ben-Sirach's vocabulary with much greater consistency, and because it recognises that a man like Ben-Sirach would not be so inconsistent in his morality and ethics as to teach love and respect for every sort of human being-except women! Therefore, whatever one thinks of Ben-Sirach's attitudes and views pertaining to women, we can at least be sure that he never wrote what the NRSV says he wrote.
The ``Wisdom'' of Ben-Sirach:
It is my hope that this discussion has at least given you the reader the essential facts, and a faithful representation, of the Book of Ecclesiasticus. I also hope that this introductory taste will instill in you a desire to investigate for yourself this compilation of one Jewish man's wisdom. In closing I wish to share with you Ben-Sirach's ``Praise of Wisdom'' (Sirach 24:1-22), in which he identifies God's Torah as the highest and truest wisdom:
``Wisdom praises herself, and tells of her glory in the midst of her People. In the Assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth, and in the presence of His hosts she tells of her glory. `I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. I dwell in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud. Alone I compassed the vault of heaven and traversed the depths of the abyss. Over waves of the sea, over all the earth, and over every people and nation I have held sway. Among all these I sought a resting place. In whose territory should I abide?
```Then the Creator of all things gave me a command, and my Creator chose the place for my tent. He said, ``Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.'' Before the ages, in the beginning, He created me, and for all the ages I shall not cease to be. In the holy tabernacle I ministered before Him, and so I was established in Zion. Thus in the beloved city He gave me a resting place, and in Jerusalem was my domain. I took root in an honored people, in the portion of the Lord, His heritage.
`` `I grew tall like a cedar in Lebanon, and like a cypress on the heights of Hermon. I grew tall like a palm tree in En-gedi, and like rosebushes in Jericho; like a fair olive tree in the field, and like a plane tree beside water I grew tall. Like cassia and camel's thorn I gave forth perfume, and like choice myrrh I spread my fragrance, like galbanum, onycha, and stacte, and like the odor of incense in the tabernacle. Like a terebinth I spread out my branches, and my branches are glorious and graceful. Like the vine I bud forth delights, and my blossoms become glorious and abundant fruit.
`` `Come to me, you who desire me, and eat your fill of my fruits. For the memory of me is sweeter than honey, and the possession of me sweeter than the honeycomb. Those who eat of me will hunger for more, and those who drink of me will thirst for more. Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame, and those who work with me will not sin.'''
translated from T E X by T TH , version 2.79.
On 11 Feb 2001, 17:40.