1) Better is childlessness with virtue;
for immortal is the memory
acknowledged both by God
and human beings.
COMMENTARY: I’m beginning to wonder if a
woman wrote this. This is pure
speculation; we know nothing about the author except for a general timeline and
probable location. But to go on for a second
chapter defending the childless doesn’t seem like something that would be on
the male radar in that era.
My imagination makes her a childless widow, tired of people adding insult to
her injuries. Or maybe, more
commendably, someone defending a woman in this predicament, which could still
indicate a female writer, because Jewish men in those days avoided speaking to
women they weren’t related to by blood or marriage. Thus they had very few relationships with
women close enough to stir their empathy; still less did they understand
anything at all of female social dynamics and who would be in or out of favor.
But I could be wrong. A man could possibly have found himself in
unusual circumstances enough to sympathize with someone else’s widow, perhaps a
sister. Even so, it seems to me that the
odds favor a female author. In fact, the
overall writing of the Book of Wisdom seems to focus on psychology,
relationships and interactions in what strikes me as a feminine style.
In any case, the verse
nevertheless has important words for people of any gender: Wisdom is immortal. People remember and repeat it long after the
person who first uttered it has died.
Even the person’s name could die, yet their words would live on, as one
of those old sayings that people keep repeating without any sense of
authorship, because they keep on being true.
The Bible says that the
line of the wicked will die out. But (as
this writer asks) does that necessarily mean a genetic line? Virtuous and wholesome thoughts take on a
life of their own, and beget their own kind of children.
2)When it is present people imitate it,
and they long for it when
it is gone;
Forever it marches crowned
victorious in unsullied
deeds of valor.
COMMENTARY: Who do we miss the most when
they die? The people who have scored the
most. be it in wealth or in babies? No,
the people who moved us the most, who helped us the most with their
insights. Think of the people who have
passed on, of which you’ve said, “I wish X was here to ask about that!” We remember all good deeds gladly, but the
gifts of patient listening, good advice, and effective teaching particularly
stick in our minds and our hearts.
3) But the numerous progeny of the wicked shall be of no
their spurious offshoots
shall not strike deep root
nor take firm hold.
For even though their branches
flourish for a time,
they are unsteady and
shall be rocked by the wind
and, by the violence of
the winds, uprooted;c
Their twigs shall be broken off
their fruit useless,
unripe for eating,
fit for nothing.
For children born of lawless
give evidence of the
wickedness of their parents, when they are examined.
COMMENTARY: Notice that the writer doesn’t
describe such children as wicked themselves, but as disadvantaged. They are unsteady, unprotected, without good
mothering in which to sink their roots.
For those who abuse the rights of others aren’t likely to spare their
own families; their children grow up with crippling traumas, low self-esteem,
and ignorance of good role models. This
applies not only to human children, but to the thoughts and deeds left behind.
Does this mean that there’s no hope for flesh and blood children of bad parents? It is my belief that Jesus brought hope with
Him. The value of being born again is
to shed the inevitably flawed upbringing of universally sinful parents raised
by sinful parents raised by sinful parents, going all the way back to the Fall,
and to find new parentage in God, with new guidance from His Holy Spirit.
7) But the righteous one, though he die early, shall be
COMMENTARY: Bible scholars speculate
that the subsequent passages might well have been in defense of Enoch,
allegedly young when he prophesied and dying soon after. (Other legends make him out to be immortal,
snatched up alive to Heaven in a flying chariot, with his writings supposedly predating
Genesis, which the science fiction series, “Agents of Shield” has had fun
playing with. But this could have been a
folkloric misinterpretation of the immortality of wisdom itself.) Sadly, the books of Enoch are neither in the
Protestant nor the Roman Catholic Bibles, though some of the Orthodox churches
preserve his writings. One day I will
read him, for Jesus quotes him.
Anyway, the message is that
one’s life impacts what sort of afterlife one could have. The Jewish community had begun increasingly
to explore this topic, starting with the books of Maccabees.
8) For the age that is honorable comes not with the
passing of time,
nor can it be measured in
terms of years.
Rather, understanding passes for
and an unsullied life is
the attainment of old age.
COMMENTARY: Respect for the elderly
presupposes them having spent the years acquiring wisdom, but if one has
squandered those years in solidifying folly instead, one won’t automatically
become a revered elder. Like all good
things, it takes work. Some people pack
much work towards wisdom into very few years.
10) The one who
pleased God was loved,
living among sinners, was
Snatched away, lest wickedness
pervert his mind
or deceit beguile his
COMMENTARY: In other words, far from
being a punishment for sin, an early death could preserve one from temptation.
12) For the witchery of paltry things obscures what is
and the whirl of desire
transforms the innocent mind.
COMMENTARY: Nothing changes much. We are much the same now as we were thousands
of years ago.
13) Having become perfect in a short while,
he reached the fullness of
a long career;
COMMENTARY: I can’t help but wonder if
this was mistranslated from Greek into the Latin Vulgate, where “perfect” and “complete”
use the same word. Nobody’s perfect, of
course, as other parts of the Bible make clear, but becoming complete makes
more sense, in the context of reaching “the fullness of a long career.”
14) for his soul was pleasing to the LORD,
therefore he sped him out
of the midst of wickedness.
But the people saw and did
nor did they take that
consideration into account.
COMMENTARY: Catholics apply verse 14 to
Jesus Christ. This goes right to the
very beginning of Christianity, when Christians were mocked for worshiping
This translation omits verse 15, because it
repeats verse 3:9—
“ Those who trust in him
shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall
abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy
are with his holy ones,
and his care is with the
Evidently the translators
don’t understand the use of poetic repetition.
16) Yes, the righteous one who has died will condemn
the sinful who live;
And youth, swiftly
completed, will condemn
the many years of the
unrighteous who have grown old.
COMMENTARY: Condemn in the sense of make
them look bad by comparison, if one considers the facts of their life instead
of leaping to conclusions.
17) For they will see the death of the wise one
and will not understand
what the LORD intended,
or why he kept him safe.
COMMENTARY: People who don’t grow any
wiser with age have no mind for subtleties, but see everything in black and
white—and yet they presume to know the will of the Lord!
will see, and hold him in contempt;
but the LORD will laugh
them to scorn.
COMMENTARY: Because there’s nothing
quite so hilarious as people priding themselves on knowing more than they
19) And they shall afterward become dishonored corpses
and an unceasing mockery
among the dead.
For he shall strike them
down speechless and prostrate
and rock them to their
They shall be utterly laid
and shall be in grief
and their memory shall
COMMENTARY: This presupposes an
afterlife where the dead can mock. This
also strikes me as so angry as to wonder if a personal insult has stirred up
such a rebuttal.
20) Fearful shall they come, at the counting up of their
and their lawless deeds
shall convict them to their face.
COMMENTARY: Never mind what people say
about you in this life—worry about how God will judge you after life.