Understanding the Bible
of the Old Testament
Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
translated by Anatoli Peredera
Contents:Introductory Notes. The Book of Job. The Book of Psalms. The Proverbs of Solomon. Ecclesiastes. The Song of Solomon. The Wisdom of Solomon. The Book of Jesus Son of Sirach. Selected Proverbs.
For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth
cometh knowledge and understanding (Prov. 2:6).
The Bible has several books that contain moral instruction and are commonly known as didactic. As compared to the books of Moses, that contain direct and mandatory commandments of God, the didactic books are written with the intent of encouraging people to live a godly life. They teach a person to live his/her life in such a way that it will be blessed by God, filled with well-being and peace of mind. This category includes the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom of Solomon, and Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach.
As far as their literary form, most didactic books of the Old Testament are written as poetry in the original Hebrew. Hebrew poetry is characterized by poetic parallelism, which is noticeable even in translation. The essence of this parallelism is that the writer's thought is expressed not in one sentence, but rather in several, usually two, sentences, which work together to develop the idea by comparison, contrast or substantiation. These types of parallelism are called synonimic, antithetic and synthetic. The following passages from Psalter (a.k.a. the book of Psalms-transl). provide examples of various types of poetic parallelism:
"When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language; Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion" (synonimic parallelism, Ps. 114:1,2).
"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright" (antithetic parallelism, Ps. 20:7,8).
"The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever" (synthetic parallelism, Ps. 19:7-9).
Among the Jews, the didactic books, together with some historical (Ruth, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1st and 2nd Paralipomenon) and prophetic (Lamentations, Daniel) books are known as Ketubim (or Hagiographa in Greek), i.e. Sacred Scriptures.
The Book of Job
This book is named after its main character, Job, who lived during the time of the patriarchs, long before Moses, not far from the Holy Land. He was a quite rich and happy man who had many children. But his wealth did not make him proud or selfish. On the contrary, everyone who knew Job loved him for his kindness, wisdom and sympathy for the poor. Many came to him for advice and considered it an honor to be his guest.
The devil was envious of Job's virtuous life and decided to retaliate. In order to show Job's great patience and virtue in front of everybody, the Lord did not prevent the devil from hurting Job. And within a very short time the devil hurled numerous troubles on Job. Job lost everything he had: his family, his enormous wealth, even his health-everything was gone. Having come down with terrible leprosy, he did not dare to live among healthy people and had to settle outside his town. Friends came to visit him there. Job was pouring out his grief before them, trying to figure out the reason for his mishaps. No one was able to help or comfort him. Yet the thought of grumbling against God was far from Job. Suffering in body and soul, he stunned his friends with his infinite patience, saying, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD... What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 1:21, 2:10).
Job's suffering lasted, probably, about a year. Having shown to all the great faith of Job, God put the devil to shame by again giving Job everything that the devil had taken away. Job miraculously recovered from untreatable leprosy, quickly grew wealthy and started a new family. Job lived many more years and enjoyed even greater honor and love. Having seen the fourth generation of his offspring, he died, being 140 years old.
Job lived in the country of Uz which is believed to have been located east of Jordan and south of Damascus, in the ancient Bashan. The land was named after Uz, son of Aram, a descendant of Shem (Gen. 10:22-23). Job was an Aramite, and his friends, mentioned in the book, were Edomites, also descended from Abraham.
It is believed that the book was originally written by Job himself, whose desire was expressed by him in verses 23 and 24 of chapter 19. The very content of the book shows that it could have been written only by a local person who took part in the events described. This original story was later given a poetic form by an inspired Hebrew writer. Otherwise it would not be included among the sacred books. The book of Job is written in perfect Hebrew. The original record was found by the Jews when they conquered Bashan. The Jews copied it into a collection like The Book of the Righteous mentioned in the book of Joshua (10:13). King Solomon could very well be the one who gave the book its present form, since in many ways it is similar to other Solomon's books-Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
Job is mentioned in several books of the Bible as a man of great righteousness. For example, the book of Ezekiel places Job on the same level with patriarch Noah and prophet Daniel (Ezek. 14:14-20). The apostle James mentions Job as an example of a very patient person: "Behold, we count them happy which endure. We have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy"(James 5:11).
The goal of the book of Job is to show that earthly happiness does not always correspond to virtuous life. Sometimes misfortunes are allowed to happen in the lives of the righteous in order to strengthen them in being good, to put the devil to shame for his lies, and to glorify the righteousness of God. To put it briefly, the book of Job addresses a very deep and hard-to-understand issue of the relationship between righteousness and reward, between evil and punishment. Besides, the book of Job has a high value as a literary piece.
During his sickness, Job uttered a very important prediction concerning the Redeemer and the coming resurrection of the dead: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me" (Job 19:25-27).
Without exaggeration, one can say that the book of Psalms, or the Psalter, is, for a Christian, the most important book in the Old Testament. The Psalter is a book of prayers for every occasion: when in grief, in a hopeless situation or in fear, in distress, in the tears of repentance and in the joy of consolation, in thankfulness and in just praising the Creator. St. Ambrose of Milan writes thus: "The grace of God breathes in all of the Scripture, but especially in the sweet song of the book of Psalms."
The title of the book derives from the Greek psalo which means to play a stringed musical instrument. King David was the first to accompany the singing of his divinely inspired prayers with playing a musical instrument called psalterion which resembled a harp. The Jews call this book Tehillim, meaning praises.
The Psalter was being composed for over 8 centuries, starting with Moses (1500 BC) to Ezra and Nehemiah (400 BC), and contains 150 psalms. King David was the first major contributor to the book. He wrote over 80 psalms-more than any other single writer. Besides the psalms of David, the book contains 1 psalm of Moses (90th), 3 psalms of Solomon (72nd, 127th and 132nd), 12 psalms of Asaph the seer and his descendants, 1 psalm of Eman (88th), 1 of Epham (89th), 11 psalms of the sons of Korah. Authorship of the other psalms is unknown. The psalms are written according to the rules of Hebrew poetry and are amazingly beautiful and powerful.
At the beginning of a psalm we often find a brief note that indicates the psalm's content. It may be a prayer, a psalm of praise, or a teaching psalm. Sometimes these notes indicate the poetic method used in the psalm, e.g. the writing, i.e. epigrammatic psalm. Others indicate the method of performing, e.g. psalm is to be accompanied by playing the psalterion, song is sung vocally, some psalms are accompanied by other musical instruments, and sometimes the instruments are changed as the psalm is performed. Some psalms begin with a few words from another song, the performance of which is similar to the performance of the given psalm-something like the similars (podobny) in church services.
The content of the psalms is closely related to the life of the righteous king David. David was born a thousand years before the birth of Christ in Bethlehem and was the youngest son among the many children of a poor shepherd named Jesse. Having become the king in Jerusalem after the death of King Saul, King David became the greatest of all the kings that would ever rule over Israel. He had a combination of character traits so valuable for a good king: the love for the people, justice, wisdom, courage and, most importantly, strong faith in God. David himself was often in charge of religious celebrations, offering sacrifices to God on behalf of the Jewish people and singing psalms.
The poetic beauty and the depth of religious feelings found in the psalms of David inspired numerous later psalm writers. Therefore, even though not all of the psalms were written by David, yet fair is the common name of the book of psalms: The Psalter of King David.
Importance of the Psalter in Divine Services
The Psalter contains many thoughts and words addressed to one's own soul, words of instruction and of consolation. Therefore it is no surprise that the Psalter is so widely used in prayer. Starting with the Old Testament times, every single divine service uses psalms. Psalms were first used when offering daily sacrifices, and on sabbaths and feasts. David introduced the use of musical instruments when singing psalms. These were harp, tympanum, psalter, cymbal, trumpet and others. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed with the words of psalms. Thus, after the Last Supper, He sang as He was going up to the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:30). Following the example of Jesus Christ and the apostles, the Church of the early centuries often used Psalter for prayer (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, 1 Cor. 14:26). To make reading of the Psalter during divine services more convenient, it was divided into 20 parts called kathismas (kathizo is the Greek for sit).
Now the Psalter is fully christianized. This means that the Church assigns Christian meaning to all sayings of the Psalter, while the Old Testament meaning is of secondary importance. The words "raise, Lord" found in the psalms remind us of Christ's resurrection. Words about captivity are understood as referring to the captivity of sin. The names of nations hostile to Israel are taken to mean spiritual enemies, and the name Israel means the people of the Church. The call to exterminate the enemies is the call to fight our passions. Salvation out of Egypt and Babylon is the salvation in Christ. Here is a list of psalms used in divine services:
During Matins: at the beginning: 20, 21, Exapsalmos (i.e. The Six Psalms; Russian: Shestopsalmiye): 3, 38, 63, 88, 103, 143. Before canon: 51. Psalms of praise: 148, 149, 150.
During the Hours: 1st Hour: 5, 90, 101. 3rd Hour: 17, 25, 51. 6th Hour: 54, 55, 91. 9th Hour: 84, 85, 86.
During Vespers: The beginning psalm: 104, "Blessed is the man:" 1, "Lord, I cry unto Thee:" 141, 142, 130, 117, at the end of the service: 34.
During Liturgy: 103, 146.
(Note: the psalms listed here are according to their numbering in the King James version of the Bible. The Septuagint numbering differs slightly.)
To help the reader find the psalms that correspond to his specific prayerful disposition, we offer the following list of psalms according to their content:
Psalms of thanksgiving and praise: 34, 66, 67, 92, 96, 97, 103, 104, 117, 146, 149, 150.
Praising God: 8, 18, 93, 103, 104.
Instructional: 1, 41, 33, 46, 85, 90, 101, 112, 127.
Pouring out grief: 3, 13, 17, 38, 55, 88, 142, 143.
Expressing trust in God: 54, 86, 91, 112, 121.
Asking God's protection against enemies and trouble: 3, 4, 25, 41, 55, 70, 143.
Psalms of repentance: 39, 51.
Expressing joy: 33, 84, 115.
The Book of Proverbs
The book of Proverbs was mainly written by Solomon, son of David, who reigned in Jerusalem a thousand years BC. Some parts of the book were written by other authors. Thus one may consider Solomon to be the main contributor to the book of Proverbs, just as David was the main contributor to the book of Psalms.
When Solomon, at the beginning of his reign, offered his prayers and burnt offerings (sacrifices that were burned) to God, God appeared to him at night and said: "Ask what I shall give thee." Solomon asked for only one thing from God: wisdom to lead God's people. "And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee" (1 Kings, 3:11-14) And indeed Solomon became famous for his wisdom, so that people came from distant countries to listen to him. Many of Solomon's sayings were included in the book of Proverbs.
In the Hebrew Bible, the book has the title Mishle Shlomo, the Seventy (Greek translation of the Bible made in 3rd century BC) call it Paremia, and the Slavonic Bible calls it Proverbs of Solomon. The Fathers call it The Wisdom of All Virtue. The book of Proverbs is written in the form of poetic parallelism.
The book of Proverbs is full of practical teaching on how to wisely build one's life on the fear of God, truth, honesty, hard work and self-control. These instructions are very true and to the point. They contain a lot of imagery, liveliness and intellectual acuity.
The book of Proverbs has always been highly respected, and many sacred writers used it. For example, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble" (Prov. 3:34, James 4:6) "And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (Prov. 11:31, 1 Peter 4:18) "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (Prov. 3:11-12, Heb. 12:5-6).
The book of Proverbs stresses the importance of acquiring wisdom and the advantages of wisdom over all the treasures in the world.
"Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her" (Prov. 3:13-18).
Then the author of the Proverbs directs his thought upwards to God Who is the source of wisdom. Here is how the wisdom of God is depicted.
"The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men ... For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD" (Prov. 8:22-31, 35, see also 1:20-33, 9:1-11).
What is remarkable in this passage is that Wisdom is presented as a person, as if a divine being. Such personification of Wisdom, puzzling to the Old Testament man, becomes clear in the light of the New Testament teaching about the Son of God-our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is also called the Word. He, according to St. John Theologian, created everything: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:1-4). And the Apostle Paul calls Jesus Christ "the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24).
Thus the teaching of the book of Proverbs about the hypostasis of God's Wisdom prepared the ground among the Jewish people for the faith in the Only-begotten Son of God.
The Book of Ecclesiastes
The Greek word Ecclesiastes derives from Ecclesia-Church and means a church preacher. In Hebrew this book is called Koheleth, from kahal-congregation. Thus the book is a collection of sayings of a church preacher.
As the book itself obviously indicates, Ecclesiastes is a pseudonym taken by the son of David who ruled in Jerusalem. This points to Solomon as the author of Ecclesiastes. Solomon's authorship is further confirmed by the description of the author's wisdom, wealth, glory and luxurious life (see. Eccl. 1:12-18 and 1 Kings 4:29 and further).
The main topic of the book of Ecclesiastes is the vanity and emptiness of all earthly things - labor, knowledge, riches, luxury and pleasures without faith in God and life after death. The book teaches about the fear of God and keeping His commandments as the conditions for possibility of happiness in this vain world. What is valuable is that the author presents this teaching based on his personal experience of many years and his deep analysis. The reader of the book can easily feel the great wisdom of the author enlightened by God's revelation.
In the beginning Ecclesiastes explains why human activities are vain and fruitless. The earth and all the natural phenomena on the planet are going in a circle, and all the work they do does not change the quantity of matter nor the quality of the acting forces. The first aspiration of a human is to learn. That is why Ecclesiastes, more than anyone else, tried to acquire knowledge. But the knowledge he acquired resulted in vexation of spirit, for knowledge does not provide what is lacking, it does not correct the will corrupted by sin. Thus the increase in knowledge increases sorrow. Another human aspiration is to find pleasure. To achieve this, Ecclesiastes acquired wealth and indulged in sensual pleasures, but all this turned out to be vanity, for the accumulation of riches comes with hard labor and cares, and enjoyment of riches does not depend on man, but on God in Whose hands is the very human life.
Then Ecclesiastes depicts vanity of human life. Without God, everything in this life is limited in time and, like in inanimate nature, goes in a cycle: birth and death, joy and sadness, truth and lie, love and hatred. But aspiration for life, truth, good and beauty has been placed into the human spirit by the Creator. Hence, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Creator is going to satisfy these aspirations - after death. There is no hope to satisfy these here because of the cycle of opposites. On this earth a person should believe in God and humbly obey His commandments, should diligently do his religious and moral duties and not be deceived by the illusion of worldly well-being. Only then can man acquire peace.
Hence Ecclesiastes concludes that the purpose of human life is moral education to prepare for the life after death, where a man's happiness will be according to his moral merit.
To summarize his observations, Ecclesiastes teaches about the significance of life here on earth as a preparation for the life to come. Being moderate in using earthly things, one should take care to do good. It is for this purpose that God created man.
The book of Ecclesiastes is believed to have been written during the last years of Solomon's life, after he had experienced and understood much, and repented before God, having realized the vanity of the pleasures of the flesh. The book of Ecclesiastes is replete with deep thoughts which may not be fully understood and appreciated right away by a reader inexperienced with abstract concepts.
The Song of Songs
(Song of Solomon)
This book was written by Solomon during the better years of his reign, shortly after construction of the temple was completed. It takes the form of a drama and consists of conversations between the Lover and his Beloved.
During the first reading this book may appear to be just another ancient lyrical song. This is the way it is understood by many free-thinking commentators who do not take into account the voice of the Church. One needs to read the prophets in order to see that, in the Old Testament, the image of the Lover and the Beloved was used in an elevated sense to represent the union between God and His faithful. This book was included in the canon of Jewish sacred books because it was in this elevated symbolic sense that the Old Testament tradition understood the book and prescribed it to be read on Passover. The Apostle Paul uses the same symbolism in the New Testament, though not in the form of poetry, when comparing the love between husband and wife to that between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-32). We often hear the same image of bridegroom and bride in the hymns of the Church where it is used to symbolize the fervent love of a Christian soul for the Savior of the soul. The same strong love of soul for Christ is found in the writings of Christian ascetics.
It is instructional to compare the following passage from the Song of Songs with a similar depiction of love by the Apostle Paul.
"Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned" (Song. 8:6-7).
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39, see also 1 Cor. 13).
The Book of Wisdom of Solomon
This book is about God's wisdom. Its composition was influenced by the Proverbs of Solomon, and therefore the name of Solomon is included in the title. Yet the book of Wisdom was produced many centuries after the death of Solomon. It was written in Greek and is not found in the Hebrew Bible. The writer of the book was familiar with the Greek philosophy and customs of the 3rd century BC. The theme of the book is the teaching about the true divinely revealed religion as the manifestation of God's Wisdom, whereas pagan idol worship is considered to be a product of the erring and sinful human mind.
The main goal of the book's writer is to show the advantages of God's wisdom preserved in the divinely revealed religion of the Jews on one hand, and the meaninglessness of idol worship on the other.
The writer of the book of Wisdom first describes the contemporary beliefs and morals of the Jews who, being righteous worshippers of the true God, suffered persecution on the part of pagans (1-3). In the following chapters he writes about the sure reward of the righteous sufferers and the inevitable punishment of pagan persecutors, if not here on earth, then definitely after death. God did not create death. It has its cause in human sin. Man was created incorruptible. Therefore the righteous will be at rest, even if they die, and their souls are in the hand of God. Suffering and death have redemptive significance for the righteous, so that their cruel suffering and early death assure us of their future glory.
The writer concludes by describing characteristics and advantages of the God-given wisdom.
The Book of
Jesus Son of Sirach
The writer of the book, who calls himself Jesus son of Sirach, was a scribe from Jerusalem. He was knowledgeable about the Law, the Prophets and the books of the fathers. He was one of the last representatives of the Great Synagogue. To acquire knowledge, he traveled a lot in foreign lands and suffered much trouble and persecution. He collected his thoughts, observations and travel notes in one book which he completed in the days of high priest Eleazar (287-265 BC). This Eleazar dispatched 72 translators to Alexandria to translate Sacred Scriptures into Greek. Jesus was among those sent, and his name is found in Aristeus' list of translators.
The book of Jesus son of Sirach is preserved in the Greek translation. The Hebrew original was for a long time considered to have been lost, but in the relatively recent past a biblical journal reported the discovery of the Hebrew original of the book.
The book of Jesus describes advantages of God-given wisdom (1). There are also instructions on various virtues: patience in suffering and trust in God (2), honoring one's parents and humility (3), helping the poor and relying on oneself (4), attitude to learning (7), attitude to the rich and powerful (8), attitude to women (9), avoiding pride, drunkenness etc. Chapters 24-33 give, on behalf of God's Wisdom, brief instructions on how to succeed in virtue, how to raise children, and how to exercise self-control.
In chapters 42-43 Jesus praises God's greatness, so obvious in the harmony and meaningfulness of nature. Jesus son of Sirach concludes his book with the following prayer of thanksgiving:
"I will thank thee, O Lord and King, and praise thee, O God my Saviour: I do give praise unto thy name: For thou art my defender and helper, and has preserved my body from destruction, and from the snare of the slanderous tongue ... Therefore will I give thanks, and praise thee, and bless they name, O Lord. When I was yet young, or ever I went abroad, I desired wisdom openly in my prayer. I prayed for her before the temple, and will seek her out even to the end. Even from the flower till the grape was ripe hath my heart delighted in her: my foot went the right way, from my youth upsought I after her. I bowed down mine ear a little, and received her, and gat much learning. I profited therein ... The Lord hath given me a tongue for my reward, and I will praise him therewith" (Ch. 51).
In the book of Jesus son of Sirach, besides useful advice and precise observations, one can feel the inspiration of heavenly Wisdom, for which Jesus was constantly asking God. That is why his book has always been heeded and loved by Orthodox Christians.
Topics: friendship, health, truthfulness, almsgiving, speech, prayer, wisdom, trusting God, repentance, drunkenness, self-control, family, humility, honesty, advice, patience, hard work, moderation, chastity.
Translator's Note: There is some (random) disagreement between various translations of the books of Sirach and Wisdom as to the numbering of verses. This translator made an effort to follow the King James Version.
Friendship: Be in peace with many: nevertheless have but one counselor of a thousand (Sir. 6:6). A faithfu1l friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such an one hath found a treasure (Sir. 6:14). Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him (Sir. 9:10).
A friend cannot be known in prosperity: and an enemy cannot be hidden in adversity (Sir. 12:8). See also: Eccl. 4:9-12; 10:8; Sir. 7:34; 33:6.
Health and medicine: Sir. 30:16; 38:1-12.
Truth, lie, flattery: A thief is better than a man that is accustomed to lie: but they both shall have destruction to heritage (Sir. 20:25). Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner, for it was not sent him of the Lord (Sir. 15:9). Strive for the truth unto death, and the Lord shall fight for thee (Sir. 4:28). Be steadfast in thy understanding; and let thy word be the same (Sir. 5:10).
Almsgiving: Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine (Prov. 3:9-10). Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee (3:27-28). There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty (Prov. 11:24-26). By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil (Prov. 16:6). He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again (Prov. 19:17).
Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms maketh an atonement for sins (Sir. 3:30). Be not slow to visit the sick: for that shall make thee to be beloved (Sir. 7:35). Dishonour not a man in his old age: for even some of us wax old (Sir. 8:6). See also: Prov. 21:13, Sir. 4:1-8; 4:31; 7:33; 18:15; 34:18-19; 38:16.
Speech: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Prov. 25:11). There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health (Prov. 12:18). In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury (Prov. 14:23). Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding (Prov. 17:28). Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him (Prov. 29:20).
If thou hast heard a word, let it die with thee; and be bold, it will not burst thee (Sir. 19:10). Many have fallen by the edge of the sword: but not so many as have fallen by the tongue (Sir. 28:18). Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in few words; be as one that knoweth and yet holdeth his tongue (Sir. 32:8). See also: Prov. 13:3; 4:24; 5:13; 6:16-19; 32:9; 19:9; 20:5; 20:6.
Prayer: Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words (Eccl. 5:2-3).
Before thou prayest, prepare thyself; and be not as one that tempteth the Lord (Sir. 18:23). The prayer of the humble pierceth the clouds (Sir. 35:17).
Wisdom: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee (Prov. 2:3-11).
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow (Eccl. 1:18). Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness (Eccl. 2:13). A man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed (Eccl. 8:1). Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour (Eccl. 10:1).
He that hath small understanding, and feareth God, is better than one that hath much wisdom, and transgresseth the law of the most High (Sir. 19:24). See also: Prov. 3:13-26; 4:5-9; 15:33; Sir. 6:18; 6:34; 21:15; 38:24; 39:1-9.
Trust in God: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Prov. 3:5-8). Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth (Prov. 27:1).
Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain (Prov. 30:7-9).
As the clay is in the potter's hand, to fashion it at his pleasure: so man is in the hand of him that made him, to render to them as liketh him best (Sir. 33:13). A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps (Prov. 16:9). See also: Prov. 16:3; Eccl. 12:14; Sir. 5:1; 16:12; 20:9.
Repentance and forgiveness: Wherewithal a man sinneth, by the same also shall he be punished (Wis. 11:16). And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Pet. 4:18, cf. Prov. 11:31) For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief (Prov. 24:16).
Make no tarrying to turn to the Lord, and put not off from day to day (Sir. 5:7). Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember the end, and thou shalt never do amiss (Sir. 7:36).
Reproach not a man that turneth from sin, but remember that we are all worthy of punishment (Sir. 8:5). A sinful man will not be reproved, but findeth an excuse according to his will (Sir. 32:17). See also Sir. 15:11.
For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others (Eccl. 7:20-22).
Drunkenness: Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast (Prov. 23:29-35). Shew not thy valiantness in wine; for wine hath destroyed many (Sir. 31:25).
Self-control, loss of temper: A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame (Prov. 12:16). The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression (Prov. 19:11). He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls (Prov. 25:28). If thou blow the spark, it shall burn: if thou spit upon it, it shall be quenched: and both these come out of thy mouth (Sir. 28:12). See also: Prov. 17:27; 19:19.
Family and raising of children: Prov. 13:24. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6). Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Prov. 23:13-14).
About a virtuous wife: Prov. 21:9; 31:10-31.
About parents: For the blessing of the father establisheth the houses of children; but the curse of the mother rooteth out foundations (Sir. 3:9). Better it is to die without children, than to have them that are ungodly (Sir. 16:3). See also: 3:12-13; 33:20-21.
Humility and pride: Surely he (God-transl). scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly (Prov. 3:34). Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall (Prov. 16:18). Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility (Prov. 18:12). The greater thou art, the more humble thyself, and thou shalt find favour before the Lord (Sir. 3:17-18). Why is earth and ashes proud? (Sir. 10:9) The Lord hath plucked up the roots of the proud nations, and planted the lowly in their place (Sir. 10:15). See also: Sir. 3:21; 4:7; 13:1; 20:11.
About dreams: Whoso regardeth dreams is like him that catcheth at a shadow, and followeth after the wind (Sir. 34:2).
Honesty and modesty: Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). For there is a shame that bringeth sin; and there is a shame which is glory and grace (Sir. 4:21).
Advice: Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established (Prov. 15:22).
Patience and hardship: My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth (Prov. 3:11-12).
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city (Prov. 16:32). Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better (Eccl. 7:3).
My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation ... For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity (Sir. 2:1-5). Woe be to fearful hearts, and faint hands, and the sinner that goeth two ways! Woe unto him that is fainthearted! for he believeth not; therefore shall he not be defended. Woe unto you that have lost patience! and what will ye do when the Lord shall visit you? They that fear the Lord will not disobey his Word; and they that love him will keep his ways. They that fear the Lord will seek that which is well, pleasing unto him; and they that love him shall be filled with the law. They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and humble their souls in his sight, saying We will fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men: for as his majesty is, so is his mercy (Sir. 2:12-18).
Hard work and laziness: Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger (Prov. 19:15). See also: Prov. 6:6-11; 24:30-34; Sir. 40:1.
Moderation: Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith (Prov. 15:16-17). See also: Sir. 31:19; 37:30-31.
Chastity (and marital faithfulness): As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion (Prov. 11:22).
When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee ... To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words; Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God. For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life (Prov. 2:10-19). See also Prov. 5:1-23.
Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent (Prov. 6:28-29).
The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein. Turn away thine eye from a beautiful woman, and look not upon another's beauty; for many have been deceived by the beauty of a woman; for herewith love is kindled as a fire (Prov. 22:14). See also Sir. 9:8-9.
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Missionary Leaflet # E24
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 901011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)