My whole being takes pleasure in three things,
and these are beautiful to the Lord and to human beings:
harmony among brothers and sisters,
friendship among neighbours,
and a wife and husband who adapt to each other.
(Sirach 25:1 CEB)
Sirach is the fifth book in the Apocrypha and is also referred to as Ecclesiasticus. It reminds me of Proverbs, with short sayings about life, God, and wisdom such as the one above. The author was a Jew named Jesus ben Sirach, thus the name of the book, which was likely written in 190-180 BC.
The New Jerusalem Bible explains that Palestine was under the influence of the Greeks during the time Sirach was writing. He was a scribe devoted to the temple and the sacred books, familiar with the Prophets and the Wisdom writings, and wanted “to teach wisdom to all who are eager for it.”
The fifty-one chapters of this book are a hodge-podge of diverse subjects, from hymns to the glory of God in nature and in history to brief maxims grouped loosely by topic. Sirach teaches traditional doctrine, saying that wisdom “comes from God; it is rooted in the fear of the Lord; it forms the youthful character and brings happiness” (themes also seen in Proverbs).
Other verses that caught my attention were these on friendship:
Trustworthy friends are a strong shelter;
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Trustworthy friends have no price,
and no one can estimate their worth.
Trustworthy friends are life’s medicine,
and those who fear the Lord will find them.
Those who fear the Lord will direct their friendships well,
because they will associate with people of like mind.
(Sirach 6:14-17 CEB)
My previous encounters with Sirach have been hearing it read during Mass. While I find it harder to read than other books of the Bible because of the lack of storyline, it also provides much to think about, especially as many of the individual sayings are easy to remember or meditate on.