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Chapter 45

Praise of Moses, Aaron, and Phinehas

From him came the man[a]
    who would win the favor of all the living:(A)
Dear to God and human beings,
    Moses, whose memory is a blessing.
God made him like the angels in honor,
    and strengthened him with fearful powers.(B)
At his words God performed signs
    and sustained him in the king’s presence.
He gave him the commandments for his people,
    and revealed to him his glory.(C)
Because of his trustworthiness and meekness
    God selected him from all flesh;(D)
He let him hear his voice,
    and led him into the cloud,
Where he handed over the commandments,
    the law of life and understanding,[b]
That he might teach his precepts to Jacob,
    his judgments and decrees to Israel.

He also raised up, like Moses in holiness,[c]
    his brother Aaron, of the tribe of Levi.(E)
He made his office perpetual
    and bestowed on him priesthood for his people;
He established him in honor
    and crowned him with lofty majesty.
He clothed him in splendid garments,
    and adorned him with glorious vestments:
Breeches, tunic, and robe
    with pomegranates at the hem
And a rustle of bells round about,
    whose pleasing sound at each step
Would make him heard within the sanctuary,
    a reminder for the people;
10 The sacred vestments of gold, violet,
    and crimson, worked with embroidery;
The breastpiece for decision, the ephod and cincture
11     with scarlet yarn, the work of the weaver;
Precious stones with seal engravings
    in golden settings, the work of the jeweler,
To commemorate in incised letters
    each of the tribes of Israel;
12 On his turban a diadem of gold,
    its plate engraved with the sacred inscription—
Majestic, glorious, renowned for splendor,
    a delight to the eyes, supremely beautiful.
13 Before him, no one had been adorned with these,
    nor may they ever be worn by any other
Except his sons and them alone,
    generation after generation, for all time.
14 His grain offering is wholly burnt
    as an established offering twice each day;
15 For Moses ordained him
    and anointed him with the holy oil,
In a lasting covenant with him and his family,
    as permanent as the heavens,
That he should serve God in the priesthood
    and bless the people in his name.
16 He chose him from all the living
    to sacrifice burnt offerings and choice portions,
To burn incense, sweet odor as a memorial,
    and to atone for the people of Israel.
17 He gave to him the laws,
    and authority to prescribe and to judge:
To teach precepts to the people,
    and judgments to the Israelites.
18 Strangers rose in anger against him,
    grew jealous of him in the desert—
The followers of Dathan and Abiram,
    and the band of Korah in their defiance.(F)
19 When the Lord saw this he became angry,
    and destroyed them in his burning wrath.
He brought against them a marvel,
    and consumed them in flaming fire.
20 Then he increased the glory of Aaron(G)
    and bestowed upon him his inheritance:
The sacred offerings he allotted to him,
    with the showbread[d] as his portion;
21 The oblations of the Lord are his food,
    a gift to him and his descendants.
22 But he holds no land among the people
    nor shares with them their heritage;
For the Lord himself is his portion and inheritance
    among the Israelites.

23 Phinehas too, the son of Eleazar,
    was the courageous third of his line
When, zealous for the God of all,
    he met the crisis of his people(H)
And, at the prompting of his noble heart,
    atoned for the children of Israel.
24 Therefore, on him also God conferred the right,
    in a covenant of friendship, to provide for the sanctuary,
So that he and his descendants
    should possess the high priesthood forever.
25 For even his covenant with David,
    the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah,
Was an individual heritage through one son alone;(I)
    but the heritage of Aaron is for all his descendants.

So now bless[e] the Lord
    who has crowned you with glory!
26 May he grant you wisdom of heart
    to govern his people in justice,
Lest the benefits you confer should be forgotten,
    or your authority, throughout all time.


  1. 44:23(end)–45:5 Moses manifested God’s power through marvels (vv. 1–3), God’s authority through the commandments and the Law (v. 5), and God’s mercy through the intimacy granted him by the Lord for his own faithfulness and meekness (v. 4).
  2. 45:5 On God’s intimacy with Moses, see Ex 33:11; Nm 12:8; Dt 34:10.
  3. 45:6–25 Ben Sira here expresses his reverence and esteem for the priesthood of the old covenant. He recalls God’s choice of Aaron and his sons for this sublime office (vv. 6–7), and describes in detail the beauty of the high priest’s vestments (vv. 8–13). He relates the ordination of Aaron at the hands of Moses (v. 15), and describes the priestly functions, namely, offering sacrifice to God (v. 16), and blessing (v. 15), teaching, governing, and judging the people (v. 17); the inheritance of the high priest (vv. 20–22); the punishment of those who were jealous of Aaron (vv. 18–19); and the confirmation of the covenant of the priesthood with Aaron’s descendants through Phinehas (vv. 23–25).
  4. 45:20 Showbread: cf. note on Ex 25:29–30.
  5. 45:25–26 So now bless: Ben Sira addresses the whole line of high priests, especially Simon II; cf. 50:1.