In the Northern Kingdom: Elijah and Elisha[a]
1 Then arose like a fire the prophet Elijah,
whose words were like a flaming torch.
2 He brought a famine on the people,
and by his zeal he decimated their number.
3 By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens
and three times he called down fire from the skies.
4 How glorious you were, Elijah, in your miracles!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
5 You raised a corpse from death
and from the netherworld, by the word of the Most High.
6 You dragged down kings to their destruction,
and also nobles from their sickbeds.
7 You heard a rebuke at Sinai
and avenging judgments at Horeb.
8 You anointed kings to effect retribution
and prophets to succeed you.
9 You were taken up to the heavens in a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot drawn by fiery horses.
10 It is written that you are destined at the appointed time
to allay the wrath of God before it erupts in fury,
to turn the hearts of parents back to their children
and to restore the tribes of Jacob.
11 Blessed is he who will see you
and those who have fallen asleep in love,
for we also shall certainly live.[b]
12 After Elijah had been enveloped in a whirlwind,
Elisha was filled with his spirit.
[He wrought twice as many signs,
and marvels by the utterance of his mouth.][c]
Throughout his lifetime no ruler ever caused him to tremble,
nor was anyone able to intimidate him in the slightest.
13 No task was too difficult for him,
and even after his death his body continued to prophesy from beyond the grave.
14 In his life he accomplished wonders,
and in death also his deeds were marvelous.
15 Despite all this, the people did not repent,
nor did they give up their sins
until they were carried off as captives from their land
and scattered over all the earth.
16 The people who were left were few in number,
under a ruler from the house of David.
Some of them did what was right,
but others continued to sin, and to a far greater extent.
Hezekiah, the Faithful King, and Isaiah, the Great Prophet[d]
17 Hezekiah fortified his city
and brought water into it;
with iron tools he cut through the rock
and built cisterns to hold the water.
18 During his reign Sennacherib invaded the country
and sent Rabshakeh,[e] his commander.
He shook his fist against Zion,
and in his arrogance he boasted loudly.
19 As a result, the people’s hearts were unnerved and their hands trembled;
they were in anguish, like that of women in labor.
20 But they called upon the merciful Lord,
stretching out their hands toward him.
In heaven the Holy One swiftly heard their cries,
and he delivered them through Isaiah.
21 God struck the camp of the Assyrians,
and his angel annihilated them.
22 For Hezekiah did what was pleasing to the Lord
and held firmly steadfast to the ways of David, his ancestor,
as was commanded by the prophet Isaiah,
whose visions were true and trustworthy.
23 During his lifetime he caused the sun to go backward
and he prolonged the life of the king.
24 In the power of his spirit he saw the end of times,
and he comforted the mourners in Zion.
25 He revealed the future to the end of the ages
and hidden things long before they occurred.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:1 In accord with a belief widely held in Israel, Elijah was to come at the time of the Messiah; verse 11 seems to refer to it (see Mal 3:23; Mt 17:10-13). The word of the Prophets was not enough to maintain the fidelity of the northern kingdom, which will fall in 721 B.C. Only the little kingdom of Judah will subsist while waiting to experience exile.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:11 Text is uncertain. In our arrangement, the author states that those who will see Elijah when he returns, as well as those who have fallen asleep in love, will live forever. The defective Hebrew text alludes only to Elijah’s disappearance (2 Ki 2:10).
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:12 Hebrew; lacking in Greek.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:17 All seems lost when in 701 B.C., Sennacherib besieges Jerusalem. But the prophet Isaiah adjures the king not to weaken and to trust in God. The Assyrian army suddenly lifts the siege, doubtless because of being decimated by an epidemic (2 Ki 18:17—19:37; Isa 36–37). At the end of this passage, allusion is made to the second part of Isaiah, the Book of Consolation (Isa 40).
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:18 Rabshakeh: this is not a proper name but the title of the epic song.